District Judge Dismisses Cannabis Monopoly Case as ‘Conspiracy Theory’

A federal judge has thrown out a suit by a private medical cannabis dispenser accusing the City of Berkeley of racketeering and establishing a private, for-profit monopoly on medical marijuana.

Private dispenser Chris Smith has sued the City of Berkeley, Berkeley’s city council, the Medical Cannabis Commission, and three private, for-profit dispensaries operating in Berkeley, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices Act (RICO). Smith claims that the city established a three-dispensary cap, then hand-picked the three dispensaries which would be allowed to operate, allowing them “to grossly inflate the prices of this medicine to line the pockets of these organizations’ owners.”

In his suit, Smith also claimed that the city placed individuals representing the three dispensaries in “key government positions,” and on the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission, to steer city code in their favor. He writes in his complaint that “Daniel Rush, a sitting member of the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission, has already been indicted for taking $600,000 in ‘loans’ from dispensaries.”

But U.S. District Judge William Alsup threw the claim out of court with extra derision, calling Smith’s suit a “conspiracy theory,” and claiming it “lacked specifics.” He refused to take the claim seriously because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

“Smith seeks to eliminate alleged racketeering and corruption from an industry that is undisputedly illegal, no different in that regard from a murder-for-hire business,” Alsup said. “This court will not lend aid to Smith’s efforts to operate an illegal business.”

Photo Credit: Clyde Robinson

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