Laura Underwood has been at it since medical cannabis was approved by Oregon voters in 1998.
She and her neighbors in Sandy, a town some 25 miles east of Portland, live near a grow operation and the Oregon Candy Farm, a weed processing plant that turns THC oil into candies. Underwood and friends are not happy with the smell and with what they perceive the cannabis producers are doing to the neighborhood…so they’re heading to court.
Underwood’s lawyer is Rachel McCart - a former equine attorney whose new specialty is suing legal cannabis businesses.
Sue them for what? Growing legal cannabis.
McCart’s strategy employs the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO, hence the ability to cast a large net and go after groups of associated people who allegedly conspire to commit crimes.
On July 20, 2018, McCart and Underwood sued more than 200 businesses - every company that had ever done business with the Oregon Candy Farm. The suit alleges that every grower and dispensary that did business with the Candy Farm conspired to commit crimes that damaged the value of Underwood’s home.
Anti-cannabis groups and their lawyers are seemingly bent on undermining state laws and the rights of citizens who voted to legalize cannabis and build an industry.
The Willamette Weekly goes even further: “Suits like Underwood's could reshape the future of legal weed. If Underwood's lawsuit succeeds at trial, the impact on the weed industry would be dramatic. Cannabis businesses across the country would constantly be at risk for expensive lawsuits from annoyed neighbors.”
Rather than folding, some of the defendants have decided to confront the legal attack and try their chances in court.
"It's essentially a shakedown," says Mason Walker, a defendant in the case with his business partners and his company, East Fork Cultivars, per the Willamette Weekly. "We don't want to be shaken down, and we don't want this to happen again."
McCart’s racketeering lawsuits began in June 2017 against her neighbors for allegedly lowering the value of her property by growing weed too close to her house and polluting the air with what she called a "powerful and unmistakable skunklike stench of marijuana."
If McCart’s brand of shaking down legal cannabis growers doesn’t work out, perhaps she’s got a future working with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.