Holiday Inn drops Bank of the West from Frisco marijuana racketeering lawsuit
The hotel group that filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against a Frisco dispensary on Thursday, Feb. 19, has dropped Bank of the West from the suit’s list of nearly a dozen defendants.
Early Thursday morning, attorneys for New Vision Hotels, owner of the Frisco Holiday Inn, announced that Bank of the West is no longer named in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit they filed against Medical Marijuana of the Rockies.
The suit was filed two weeks after the Frisco Town Council approved the dispensary’s application for a combination retail store and cultivation site across the street from the hotel.
In a written statement, Bank of the West denied that it knowingly did business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, noting it is against the bank’s policy to offer accounts and financial services to marijuana businesses. The bank also confirmed it has closed all accounts linked to the dispensary, which is wholly owned by Jerry Olson.
The local Bank of the West branch declined to comment on the case. Several calls to the corporate office were unreturned as of press time.
Brian Barnes, New Vision’s representative through the Washington, D.C., law firm Cooper and Kirk, said Bank of the West was dismissed from the case without prejudice, leaving the door open for potential future litigation against the bank.
“We would consider adding Bank of the West back as a defendant if it came to light that the bank violated the federal money laundering statutes by knowingly providing financial services to the illegal drug conspiracy that is the focus of our suit,” Barnes said. “Beyond that, I can’t comment on our legal strategy or on what actions we might take in the future.”
Along with Olson, the suit also names the dispensary’s accountant and several affiliated business partners, whom the suit claims provided money to Olson for construction on the new dispensary.
A second RICO suit filed by a Pueblo horse farm and New Vision’s co-plaintiff, the D.C.-based anti-crime organization Safe Streets Alliance, named Gov. John Hickenlooper, director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division Lewis Koski and several additional state officials.
Both RICO suits argue the state of Colorado and marijuana businesses are on par with organized crime because they collect tax revenue from the sale of a federally illegal substance.
In several email exchanges, Barnes refers to the state’s marijuana industry as a “marijuana conspiracy.”
Sean McAllister, a Denver-based attorney who has defended dozens of marijuana businesses since the advent of medical marijuana dispensaries in 2007, said the plaintiffs purposely named Bank of the West in the original suit to highlight the tentative relationship between banks and marijuana businesses.
“It’s simple: We’re caught in a cultural schizophrenia over marijuana,” said McAllister, who has no relationship to the RICO cases. “People know it’s not a big deal, but in social circles and political circles, no one wants to step out because of the social stigma. There’s nothing to be gained.”
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