Pot, property values focus of upcoming Colorado trial

A federal trial in Colorado could have far-reaching effects on the United States' budding marijuana industry if a jury sides with a couple who say having a cannabis business as a neighbor hurts their property's value.

The trial set to begin today in Denver is the first time a jury will consider a lawsuit using federal anti-racketeering law to target cannabis companies. But the marijuana industry has closely watched the case since 2015, when attorneys with a Washington, D.C.-based firm first filed their sweeping complaint on behalf of Hope and Michael Reilly.

One of the couple's lawyers, Brian Barnes, says they bought the southern Colorado land for its views of Pikes Peak and have since built a house on the rural property. They also hike and ride horses there.

But they claim "pungent, foul odors" from a neighboring indoor marijuana grow have hurt the property's value and their ability to use and enjoy it.

Barnes said “it’s not right to have people in violation of federal law injuring others."

An attorney for the business targeted by the suit plans to argue the couple's property hasn’t been damaged, relying in part on the county's tax valuations of the Reillys' land ticking up over time.

Vulnerability to similar lawsuits is among the many risks facing marijuana businesses licensed by states but still violating federal law. Suits using the same strategy have been filed in California, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Dawn Kamber