A Colorado pot shop recently closed after a Washington-based group opposed to legal marijuana sued not just the pot shop but a laundry list of firms doing business with it — from its landlord and accountant to the Iowa bonding company guaranteeing its tax payments. One by one, many of the plaintiffs agreed to stop doing business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, until the mountain shop closed its doors and had to sell off its pot at fire-sale prices.
With another lawsuit pending in southern Colorado, the cases represent a new approach to fighting marijuana. If the federal government won’t stop its expansion, pot opponents say, federal racketeering lawsuits could. Marijuana may be legal under state law, but federal drug law still considers any marijuana business organized crime.
“It is still illegal to cultivate, sell or possess marijuana under federal law,” said Brian Barnes, lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington-based anti-crime group that brought the lawsuits on behalf of neighbors of the two Colorado pot businesses…
Filed in February, the Colorado lawsuits have yet to go before a judge. But one has already had the intended effect.
In April, three months after the RICO lawsuit was filed, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies closed. Owner Jerry Olson liquidated his inventory by selling marijuana for $120 an ounce, far below average retail prices.
“I am being buried in legal procedure,” Olson wrote on a fundraising Web page he created to fight the lawsuit. The effort so far has brought in just $674.
The closure came after the pot shop’s bank, Bank of the West, closed the shop’s account and was dismissed as a plaintiff…
The case of the mountain pot shop shows that racketeering lawsuits can affect the marijuana industry even if the lawsuits never make it to a hearing.
“This lawsuit is meant more to have a chilling effect on others than it is to benefit the plaintiffs,” said Adam Wolf, Olson’s lawyer…
“We’re putting a bounty on the heads of anyone doing business with the marijuana industry,” Barnes said. “Just because you see what appears to be this unstoppable growth of marijuana, we disagree. We’re starting to change the economics of the marijuana industry.”
Brian Barnes, the lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, works at the law firm of Cooper & Kirk. This law firm represents groups like the NRA and corporations like Bank of America and Cash Advance Centers. Charles Cooper, the founding member of the firm, defended California Proposition 8 (which banned same-sex marriage in the state) before the Supreme Court, and is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association. Mr. Cooper is on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, “a state-based think tank that describes its mission as being to ‘lay the intellectual foundation for a society dedicated to individual liberty, free enterprise, private property, the rule of law, and constitutionally limited government.'”
Mr. Cooper is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):
We know that ALEC is funding this legal bullying, but who is funding ALEC to continue the drug war against pot? I’d say that would probably be the prison industrial complex: