Cannabis in Court: Couple Loses Battle Over Aroma from Nearby Growery
Late last year, a Colorado couple officially lost the lawsuit they filed regarding the marijuana smell emanating from a neighboring property housing a marijuana growery. The case’s official verdict may serve to impact the marijuana industry in major ways, namely in terms of what will be considered legitimate cases against the inherent elements of cannabis production and use in the future.
After purchasing their property several years ago for its sweeping views and relative isolation, the Reilly family became concerned when, in 2015, certain aromas began permeating their land; scents that they were quick to describe as “pungent” and “foul.”
With a team of lawyers at their hip, Hope and Michael Reilly went to court claiming that the odors would harm their health, their property value and their ability to enjoy their home. If that weren’t enough, the couple also expressed fears that the grow facility’s operations would bring increased crime to the neighborhood. While their claims could easily have been brought to court without significant fanfare as a standard nuisance complaint, the Reillys chose to escalate to federal civil action.
The defending marijuana business’ legal team, confident in the safe and legal operations of their business, fought back by demanding evidence of any current or potential bodily harm caused by the odor. Citing county tax valuations, the defendants also argued the fact that based on public records, the property value had actually increased since the time of purchase.
Though the Reillys had made sufficient allegations against the marijuana grower in question regarding the scents reaching their property, the jury appointed to the case failed to find any evidence that the smell had caused or could potentially cause any bodily injury to the couple.
Their concerns regarding increased crime being unfounded and categorically contradicted by findings showing decreased crime in legalized areas, the elements of the suit pertaining to local crime were all but ignored. Furthermore, the plaintiffs failed completely in providing any evidence that the marijuana operations of the defendants caused any diminishment in the value of their property. The jury was simply not convinced of any devaluation, likely in part due to the presentation of the aforementioned tax documents showing increased value.
This case, in what may be a surprising twist to both the plaintiffs and the discerning public, may help to further define marijuana-related laws and eliminate misconceptions regarding groweries, dispensaries, patient care operations and other forms of cannabis business. It’s possible that the marijuana industry as a whole may become more protected against lawsuits, as it has now become more clear that injury or devaluation may need to be proven as opposed to simply alleged.
The Future of Marijuana Lawsuits
With the country still in the extremely early stages of marijuana understanding and acceptance, there is likely a long road ahead before lawsuits like the Reilly’s become a thing of the past.
In fact, we’re already seeing more of these types of suits. Early last year, a group of neighbors in Sonoma County, California filed their own lawsuit against a local marijuana grower under the RICO Act; in this particular case, using RICO was appropriate as the grower, Carlos Zambrano, was producing crop without a legally-issued license to grow marijuana. According to Zambrano’s neighbor and community member Marie Uppal, “The smell was so bad we couldn’t even go outside.” The odor had stretched all the way to a nearby elementary school, according to the school’s principal, leading children playing outside to ask what the odor was and upsetting more than a few parents in the process.
Under a settlement agreement with the county, Zambrano was ordered to pay more than $400,000 in fines and back taxes. In an interesting twist, however, he was also allowed to harvest and sell his crop in order to pay part of the fines. It would not be unnatural to hope that this permission shows a better understanding within government bodies regarding marijuana’s comparative lack of danger; whether state or federal stances on marijuana scheduling and legal standings change as a result of cases like these will, of course, remain to be seen.
All things considered, marijuana becoming more public through legal cases like these will likely promote a need and desire for more research and education and help combat long-standing stigma and misconception. The results of the Reillys’ case, and even Zambrano’s, show that there is already a shift toward marijuana acceptance, where in the past such a win for cannabis would have been inconceivable.
Today’s blog is written by Rick Weyback, MD, founder and president of Doctor Jane and our licensed medical marijuana physician. Stay tuned for additional discussions of marijuana news. If you are considering marijuana treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the team here at Doctor Jane at your earliest convenience.
About Doctor Jane
Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical marijuana treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.
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