A Tale of Two Statutes

10th Circuit Court ruling pits Amendment 64 against Controlled Substances Act

A June opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on a handful of lawsuits involving the marijuana industry has set federal law against state legislation.

The court determined private citizens do not have a right under the Controlled Substances Act to bring preemption claims against state marijuana regulations. Separately, the decision also plays an important role in defining who can successfully bring civil suits under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Phillis and Michael Reilly and the Safe Streets Alliance, an anti-marijuana interest group to which they belong, alleged in Safe Streets Alliance v. Alternative Holistic Healing that a state- and county-licensed marijuana manufactory located adjacent to the Reillys’ property in Pueblo County both diminished its value and interfered with their use and enjoyment of it. A district court initially dismissed the claims, but the 10th Circuit court reversed the dismissal and allowed the RICO suit to proceed.

The court also grouped together a handful of other rulings in its decision, all calling into question the validity of state marijuana laws. The Reillys and the Safe Streets Alliance brought property damage action against the county and state of Colorado for licensing the manufactory, claiming the Controlled Substances Act preempts Amendment 64 under the Supremacy Clause. A similar suit, Smith v. Hickenlooper, was brought against the state by a group of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado sheriffs and county attorneys. District courts dismissed both cases, which the 10th Circuit upheld, saying the Controlled Substances Act does not include a private right of action to enforce it.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the July 10, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.