Can You Fight Marijuana Laws with RICO Suits?

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Sturm College of Law


Marijuana, Cannabis, RICO, Colorado


Colorado has been the subject of multiple lawsuits in recent months, all of them challenging the state’s first-in-the-nation tax and regulatory system for adult-use marijuana. Most of these suits are grounded in the argument that Colorado’s regulatory system is preempted by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As I have argued elsewhere and as David Ball has argued on this website, this argument is without merit. It is clear that Colorado has the power to repeal its marijuana prohibitions; the federal government may not require the states to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, to pass parallel legislation, to enforce their existing prohibitions or to maintain those prohibitions on the books. Given that the state could legalize all marijuana conduct, it seems clear that it may, as it has done, choose to authorize only a limited, regulated marijuana market. The greater power should certainly include the lesser.

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