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California marijuana business prevails in RICO lawsuit

At first glance, a California lawsuit filed north of San Diego appears to involve gangsters. After all, the suit was filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Signed by President Richard Nixon, RICO was designed to battle the Mafia and other elements of organized crime. The recent lawsuit was filed by neighbors of a northern California cannabis grower, however.

A federal judge recently ruled against the plaintiffs, refusing to stop marijuana cultivation. News sources say it was the first attempt in the state to use the RICO Act to stop legal cannabis farming.

The plaintiffs had argued that the facility has a “sickening cannabis odor.” Together with loud noise, the odor diminishes their home values, they said. But U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote in his decision that their complaints are about nuisances “not compensable under RICO.”

While the plaintiffs are undoubtedly disappointed by the ruling, the good news for them is that the operation was shut down as part of an agreement between the owners and the county permitting department over alleged rules violations.

An attorney for the growers said the judge ruled appropriately. “RICO is not the appropriate venue to remedy cannabis odor,” he said, adding that the decision was “a big victory for the defense.”

The ruling gave the four families who filed the lawsuit 30 days to amend their complaint. Their lawyer said the families are mulling their options, which includes pursuit of compensation for attorney fees with a lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court. He said that the families have already prevailed because the marijuana farm has been shuttered.

Those facing business litigation should contact a San Diego law firm experienced in representing clients that include owners, investors, individuals, companies and corporations.