As the medical marijuana industry grows, so do the conflicts between grow facilities and neighboring property owners.
On Jan. 3, Keith and Stephanie Grant, of Sapulpa, filed suit for violation of their federal rights under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The Grants, who own property adjacent to the Flying Bud Farms, LLC, allege the facility and D-Luxe Holdings, LLC, along with 14 other entities, are a nuisance and created injury to their property under Oklahoma law.
The suit states, “federal law prohibits the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana, conspiracies to cultivate, possess, and distribute marijuana, and continuing criminal enterprises engaged in the business of illicit drug trafficking, all of which remain felony crimes under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (“CSA”). Cultivating marijuana for sale is racketeering activity in violation of RICO.”
Trent Shores, an attorney with Gable Gotwals and representative for the Grants, released the following statement: “As a career federal prosecutor, this type of case is very familiar to me – a drug enterprise that inflicts collateral damage on innocent people who happen to be in its vicinity.”
“The law in the Tenth Circuit is clear,” he continued, “State-sanctioned marijuana grow operations remain illegal under federal law and constitute racketeering activity in violation of federal RICO laws. I will look forward to presenting the case to a jury and, hopefully, obtaining relief for the Grants.”
In the 75-page case filing, the Grants allege they have “suffered significant injury to their property and have lost the use and enjoyment of what was once a quiet, secluded, and safe homestead” since 2019 when the grow operation began construction and operation.
They say the damage to their property is due to water runoff as a result of alterations made to the grade by Gary David Bacon, which is partially located within a flood plain. The filing questions if proper permitting was obtained from the Creek County Floodplain Management Board, the board responsible for approving application for development in floodplains within Creek County.
Although Defendant Bacon lived on the property at 12260 W. 171st Street, he did not possess title to the 12260 W. 171st Street property when construction began and therefore may not have proper permitting.
The “pungent” odor created by the grow facility is “relentless” and has caused Mrs. Grant to experience severe allergy symptoms, headaches and nausea, according to the filing.
In addition, the Defendants Bacon and Derek Wachob fly helicopters to and from the site, sometimes multiple times a day, directly over the Grants’ home, according to the complaint.
Flying Bud filed its limited liability company Articles of Organization with the State of Oklahoma on Dec. 3, 2018, its Certificate of Limited Liability Company was issued the same day by the State of Oklahoma, and the State of Oklahoma approved Flying Bud’s marijuana grow license on Jan. 16, 2019, the suit says. Flying Bud is licensed by the State of Oklahoma to grow and cultivate marijuana under license number GAAA-NYJO-QJDG.
After the suit was filed, Sapulpa Times received statements from the sole principal of Flying Bud Farms, and the principals of D-Luxe, as well as a combined statement sent by their attorneys.
“We are a 4th generation farm that has been farming this same land for 80 years,” Flying Bud Farms said in its statement. “We’ve lived on this land during that time and watched the crop and cattle business go through some very difficult times. When we realized we had the opportunity to help people and to make a real difference [by] providing an alternative, natural source of medicine, therapy, and treatment for a variety of debilitating conditions, it was a simple decision.
“When we first got word of this civil case brought against us as well as several other companies that we are either principals of or associated with, we were saddened. It’s unfortunate that people can make knowingly false accusations without economic cost and force others to have to defend themselves at significant expense. The good news is that we are confident that we will be ultimately vindicated in the litigation and the public will be able to see how baseless these claims are.”
The Principals of D-Luxe say they found it “disappointing that the plaintiffs have filed these outrageous claims against companies that are working hard to provide employment and economic development in the region, not to mention a product that has provided effective treatment, relief and comfort to patients afflicted with a variety of serious medical conditions.
“We’ve met a lot of amazing people in this industry in the short time we’ve been in it. It’s been very eye-opening to witness the number of business owners like us that entered the industry, not for the economics, but based upon a personal experience they’ve had in learning what a difference cannabis can make in the lives of loved ones who are suffering.
“We hold ourselves to one of the highest standards in this industry. We are focused on complying with all applicable rules to the highest standard without regard to cost. We are firm believers that we must help set the standard along with other quality, lawful operators in this industry.”
In a combined statement, the principals of Flying Bud and D-Luxe also said, in part, “while we would prefer not to deal with the distraction of this baseless litigation, on a broader, industry-wide level, it is important that lawful operators speak out against claims like these. If we can help pave the way for lawful, responsible operators in Oklahoma and other states in the cannabis industry, then we are ready to help make the difference.
“We feel Oklahoma growers and retailers should be able to play by rules set by the people of Oklahoma and the legislature, and we’re confident that we’ll be found to have done so in this case.”
Flying Buds Farms is one of 59 registered growers in the Sapulpa area on the Oklahoma Growers List as of January 7th. The full list can be found at oklahoma.gov/omma.