DENVER — A federal jury has ruled against a Colorado couple who claimed that a marijuana-growing operation hurt the value of their property in a case that was closely watched by the U.S. cannabis industry.
Jurors reached their verdict in Denver after deliberating for about a half day, The Colorado Sunreported Wednesday.
It was the first time a jury considered a lawsuit using federal anti-racketeering law to target a marijuana company.
“A loss in this case would have meant the loss of his business,” Matthew Buck, the lawyer for operation’s owner, Parker Walton, told The Sun.
The marijuana industry has followed the case since 2015, when attorneys with a Washington, D.C., firm first filed their complaint on behalf of Hope and Michael Reilly over Walton’s operation in the rural southern Colorado town of Rye.
Vulnerability to similar lawsuits is among the many risks facing marijuana operations licensed by states but still violating federal law. Lawsuits using the same strategy have been filed in California, Massachusetts and Oregon.
One of the Reillys’ lawyers, Brian Barnes, said the couple bought their land for its views of Pikes Peak, built a house there and hike and ride horses on the property.
But they claimed “pungent, foul odors” from a neighboring indoor marijuana-growing operation have hurt the property’s value and the couple’s ability to use and enjoy it.
Congress created the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to target the Mafia in the 1970s, allowing prosecutors to argue leaders of a criminal enterprise should pay a price along with lower-level defendants.