A federal appeals court in Denver on Wednesday gave private landowners in Colorado the go-ahead to sue neighboring marijuana growers under a federal law targeting criminal enterprises, a decision that could expose the recreational marijuana industry to more private litigation.
The lawsuit involves an unresolved but growing conflict nationwide concerning marijuana. While an increasing number of states, like Colorado, have legalized its production and sale, the federal Controlled Substances Act still considers it illegal.
Recent comments made by members of the Trump administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have stoked concern throughout the nascent industry that federal officials might step up prosecution of marijuana sales.
A Colorado couple, Michael and Phillis Windy Hope Reilly, sued marijuana growers in 2015, claiming the business caused the value of their nearby plot of land to decrease. The marijuana operation could lead potential buyers of the couple’s land—105 acres in southern rural Colorado—to worry about increased crime, they argued, and interfered with their ability to enjoy the land because of the business’s noxious smell.