New federal lawsuits aim to quash CO marijuana industry

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Oklahoma and Nebraska aren’t alone anymore in their fight to upend Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry.

A new player, the Washington DC-based Safe Streets Alliance, has filed a pair of lawsuits in Colorado federal district court this week in an attempt to wipe out rec businesses in the state. (You can read the full lawsuits here and here.)

“Safe Streets has brought these suits with one overriding purpose — to end the sale of recreational marijuana in this state,” David Thompson, managing partner of Cooper and Kirk Law Firm, said during a press conference in Colorado on Thursday morning.

The suits name multiple defendants, including several marijuana businesses and executives such as Alternative Holistic Healing, a chain that owns three rec cultivation facilities around Colorado, and Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, a MMJ dispensary in the mountain town of Frisco that is building a rec store now.

Other defendants named in the suits include Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Pueblo County Commission, Bank of the West, and more.

The suits contend that the rec industry in the state has wrought damage to the plaintiffs, including a drop in property values for a family outside Pueblo and a loss of business for a Holiday Inn in Frisco.

The suits argue that federal law supersedes any state law, and therefore the federal government needs to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and close down the recreational cannabis industry.

“Federal law is the supreme law of the land, and under federal law, it is a felony to sell marijuana in this state,” Thompson said. “Those who ignore this bedrock principle of American law do so at their peril.”

Advocates of the rec industry held their own press conference Thursday morning to denounce the suits as a stunt by cannabis foes.

“If drug cartels relied on litigation instead of violence, this is the lawsuit they would file,” said Mason Tvert, communications director of Marijuana Policy Project.

University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin said Congress never intended to undercut state sovereignty with the Controlled Substances Act, and asserted that Colorado’s regulations regarding the rec industry are within the bounds of federal rules.

“It’s going to be tough for (Safe Streets) to show that Colorado’s regulations are pre-empted by federal law,” Kamin predicted.