Dear Pot Lawyer,
I read that wine growers are suing weed growers near McMinnville? What’s going on?
Yes, that’s an interesting case. The plaintiffs are vineyard developers Harihara and Parvathy Mahesh, and their vineyard owner neighbor, Momtazi Family LLC. The Maheshes and Momtazi are suing their neighbor, defendant Richard Wagner, and his parents, who, unlike your mom and dad, set Wagner up on a nice spread of land to produce and process weed. Not only do the plaintiffs not like the smell of Wagner’s weed, but they don’t like the weed itself, which they claim is damaging their grapes.
The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief, which means they want the court to block Wagner’s prospective cannabis operation altogether. In legal terms, the smell is alleged to be a “nuisance” and a “trespass.” But the most interesting allegation here is that, as a part of Wagner’s tortious actions, the weed will damage the wine. According to the complaint, one buyer of Momtazi grapes has already canceled its order because “the foul-smelling particles will migrate by air” and thereby ruin the Mahesh and Momtazi grapes.
I say this case is interesting because it presents a novel fact situation, which involves scant legal precedent and scientific inquiry. There have been many pot odor lawsuits in the past, but few, if any, where someone claims damage to crops. The jury here would have to determine whether Wagner’s weed activities are actually doing that. To convince them, the sides would likely hire scientists or other industry experts.
Immediately after filing this lawsuit, the plaintiffs went to court to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO), which is what you do in these types of cases. The idea here was to stop Wagner from producing and processing weed until the lawsuit is fully adjudicated. The pleadings in this case are fun to read: Harihara offered the court some delightful Instagram posts by Wagner, where he described a “fat dab” followed by “a most enjoyable odor of sour skunky grapefruit.” He also marveled of his landrace Saipanese plant, “The terpenes are stinky like this bug—rotten fruit, gas, and notes of tobacco.”
Wagner and his parents hired a good lawyer, showed up in court, and responded that the “Instagram posts establish only that Wagner (who does not own the property) enjoys marijuana, which is legal under Oregon law.” The defendants also pointed out that Wagner hadn’t even applied for an OLCC license, and that a Yamhill County permitting process was still underway. The Court apparently liked those arguments because it sided with Wagner, and denied the TRO.
The fact that Wagner took round one doesn’t mean a whole lot, other than he may proceed with his dabs and whatnot until the case is over with. That could take a year or longer, assuming no one caves from the pile of attorney fees they’ll pay each month and never recover. The smart money says Wagner will probably win this one, but it’s also far from certain. Stay tuned.
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