Federal judge throws out racketeering claim against California cannabis grower

A federal judge dismissed a federal racketeering claim against an allegedly illegal marijuana cultivator in Northern California, saying the plaintiffs failed to prove a business or property loss as required by the statute.

The suit made the same general nuisance claims to ones that have recently been leveled against licensed cannabis operations across the country.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ruled on Dec. 27 that allegations by four neighboring families that Green Earth Coffee’s business created a “sickening cannabis odor” and other nuisances are personal injuries that can’t be compensated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, is believed to the first RICO case of its kind in California since the state legalized recreational marijuana.

Attorney Joe Rogoway, who represented Sonoma County-based Green Earth Coffee, told The Press Democrat the ruling is a victory for cannabis operators facing opposition to marijuana cultivation on the basis of smell.

But the attorney for the plaintiffs claimed success as well, because Green Earth Coffee recently shut down.

The business, owned by Carlos Zambrano and others, closed about six weeks ago, according to the Santa Rosa newspaper, after the county alleged it hadn’t complied with all local regulations.

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