A neighborhood group in Sonoma County, California, filed a racketeering lawsuit against an allegedly illegal cannabis operation that claims the grower is creating a “skunk-like stench” near their homes and causing health problems.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, makes similar claims to ones that have been made in recent racketeering suits involving licensed marijuana operations across the country.
The nine plaintiffs in the Sonoma County case allege that Green Earth Coffee, owned by Carlos Zambrano, operates about 40 greenhouses that emanate a “stench of cannabis” that pervades their homes, makes them sick and prevents them from enjoying their properties, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The county inspected the site in late May, according to the suit, and posted “stop” notices because the business was operating without permits. Licensed MJ firms in California continue to lose significant market share to illicit, unlicensed players.
The county reportedly hasn’t taken any enforcement action.
Tim Ricard, Sonoma County’s cannabis program manager, told the Chronicle that Zambrano was issued a notice to cease operations after his application for a 1-acre plantation was rejected, but that he filed an appeal.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard Friday. In the meantime, Zambrano could be fined up to $10,000 a day for continuing to operate illegally, Ricard told the newspaper.
Anti-racketeering lawsuits against licensed MJ cultivators have been proliferating in states such as Oregon, Colorado and Massachusetts since a June 2017 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling gave the claims some legal backing.
Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), defendants can be found liable for up to triple the damages.