Federal appeals court judges on Tuesday reviewed the reach of racketeering laws, chewed over case law and opined over olfactory issues in a case that threatens to stamp out Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry.
A three-judge panel for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver took oral arguments in a consolidated case that claims Colorado’s recreational cannabis laws fly in the face of federal controlled substances and racketeering laws.
The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma joined the dispute after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. The appeals also included a lawsuit from county sheriffs and another from a Pueblo horse ranch. The plaintiffs’ challenges were among several raised in and after 2014, when Colorado’s first-of-its-kind foray into regulated sales of cannabis didn’t sit well with all, especially neighboring states concerned about federally illicit substances spilling over their borders. Those complaints and the Nebraska-Oklahoma suit were eventually struck down.
On Tuesday morning, in a crowded, small, upstairs courtroom at the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in downtown Denver, attorneys and judges reviewed the reach of RICO and other federal acts and the impacts of marijuana cultivation on nearby properties.
“I went into the courtroom thinking that this was a slam dunk,” Matthew W. Buck, an attorney representing a half-dozen marijuana businesses named in the suits, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “And I came out of it thinking that it would be more of a toss-up.”