Tenth Circuit: neighbors’ RICO suit against pot growers can proceed

I wrote two years ago about how

a pro-Drug-War group [Safe Streets Alliance] is using civil RICO to go after banks, bonding companies, landlords, and other commercial vendors that do business with marijuana facilities legalized under Colorado’s Amendment 64. Whatever you think of the underlying Colorado law, RICO (I argue) puts too much power in the hands of bounty-hunting private lawyers.

Now the Tenth Circuit has ruled that Safe Streets Alliance, representing a couple named Reilly, can proceed with a racketeering suit against the Reilly’s marijuana-growing neighbors. The direct damages claimed, including noxious odors, are of the sort that might form the basis of a conventional nuisance action, but the RICO framing could make possible steeper penalties, such as triple damages and attorneys’ fees, while the continued unlawfulness of the growing under federal law (even if left unenforced) knocks out possible defenses for the growers [Eugene Volokh; my 2015 piece]


  • Shouldn’t the state of Colorado be named as a co-conspirator since they profit from the criminal act in the form of taxes?

    • In fact the relevant Colorado officials are named in the suit. Always follow the links, in this case to the opinion (“has ruled”).

      • I was only kidding. Damn. This should be interesting.

  • Suppose there were a broad civil-society movement in Colorado (perhaps initiated by votes of the State legislature) to educate potential jurors about their power to nullify heavy-handed insertions of Federal law in matters best left to the States, or the misuse of a law that had been sold to the public as a tool against organized crime. Would the plaintiffs be able to move the trial out of Colorado? Or insist on a non-jury trial/