A California jury has awarded $5 million in damages in what is believed to be the first cannabis industry antitrust case in the nation, according to a National Law Review report. The case, Richmond Compassionate Care Collective v. Koziol, et al., involved a dispute between medical cannabis collectives in Richmond, California.
The plaintiff, Richmond Compassionate Care Collective (RCCC), contended that the defendants, directors of the collective Richmond Patient’s Group (RPG), conspired to prevent them from opening a dispensary by blocking their access to the limited inventory of commercial properties where medical cannabis dispensaries were permitted to operate under a local ordinance.
The RCCC claimed that RPG’s plan included fake leases, letters of intent to lease or purchase, and purchase agreements to landlords with available commercial properties in an effort to “tie [the landlords] up with paper” so as to prevent RCCC from securing a property before its pending permit expired, the report says. RCCC also said the defendants went door-to-door to landlords, attempting to convince them not to lease or rent their properties to RCCC, and demanded non-compete clauses in their own leases to contractually prevent landlords from leasing or renting their properties to the plaintiffs.
RCCC’s lawsuit argued that RPG’s actions constituted an unlawful group boycott in violation of California’s Cartwright Act and caused RCCC to suffer millions of dollars in damages.
The case went to trial in August, naming as defendants the three owners and directors of RPG: William Koziol, Darrin Parle, and Alexis Parle. On September 23, the jury returned a verdict against Koziol and Parle, awarding $5,000,000 in damages, which will be automatically trebled to $15,000,000, the report says. Parle, the remaining defendant, was found not liable.
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