Owner of Harvard Square mall turns to federal racketeering law to try to stop nearby marijuana dispensary

The owner of the Crimson Galleria and nearby properties clustered along JFK Street wants a federal judge to block a proposed Winthrop Street dispensary, arguing marijuana remains illegal under federal law and so its proposed operators - and the city of Cambridge, the town of Georgetown and the state of Massachusetts - are violating the federal anti-racketeering law.

In addition to wanting to block the Healthy Pharms dispensary, Raj Dhanda demands to be triple reimbursed for the massive losses he claims he is incurring because he is now unable to fully redevelop his parcels - unlike every other Harvard Square property owner.

Dhanda has long opposed the dispensary, but his lawsuit, filed this week in US District Court in Boston, represents a significant escalation of his opposition. Where once he claimed to be unopposed to dispensaries in general - just this particular location for one, he is now charging that dispensaries represent a criminal act that require suppression under a law normally used by prosecutors to go after murdering, drug-dealing gangs.

In January, when the Planning Board was considering the issue, he wrote the board that he opposed the proposal only because of its location in a historic building on a narrow street that he said would be overwhelmed by extra foot traffic to and from the place and cause possible public-safety issues:

My objection is to the location and the building, not to the idea of marijuana dispensary.

Now he has hired two law firms in what could be a case with national ramifications - a local firm and the Washington, DC firm of Cooper & Kirk, one of whose principals, Charles Cooper, was hired earlier this year by vocal anti-pot advocate and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (although to help Sessions defend himself against allegations related to Russian election interference).

In the suit, Dhanda points to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

On the issue of marijuana, federal law is clear: it is a felony under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (“CSA”) to deal in marijuana. Despite the express federal prohibition on marijuana, Massachusetts and many of its local jurisdictions have enacted laws, ordinances, and regulations designed to promote the growth of a billion-dollar commercial marijuana industry. Yet, notwithstanding that recreational and medicinal marijuana is now “legal” in Massachusetts, the drug’s cultivation, sale, and possession remain serious federal criminal offenses in Massachusetts and conflict with federal law. Indeed, those associated with Massachusetts’s largest-scale marijuana producers risk lengthy terms in federal prison. The people of Massachusetts are free to advocate for a repeal of this federal criminal prohibition, but they must do so through their elected representatives in Congress. Under our federal system, Congress alone can authorize revision of federal laws prohibiting the commercial trade in marijuana.

As for RICO:

Dealing in marijuana is racketeering activity under RICO, and those who engage in a pattern of racketeering activity through a corporation or other enterprise are liable for three times the economic harm they cause plus costs and attorneys’ fees. Those who conspire with racketeers by agreeing to assist them are likewise liable. RICO also gives Federal Courts the power to order racketeering enterprises and their coconspirators to cease their unlawful operations. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs ask this Court to award them the damages, costs, and fees to which they are entitled, and request that the Court order the RICO Defendants to cease their open and notorious violation of federal law and enter injunctive relief preventing further violation of federal law.

Dhanda says the proposed dispensary, which was approved by the Cambridge Planning Board earlier this year and which would sell products based on marijuana grown in Georgetown, would be bad for his business:

Amongst other matters, marijuana businesses make bad neighbors, which include without limitation, emitting pungent odors, attracting undesirable visitors, increasing criminal activity, driving down property values, and limiting the rental of premises. Crimson Galeria, RAJ & RAJ, Harvard Square Holdings, and Charles River Holdings, are property owners who have suffered serious and substantial injuries caused by the operations of a nearby marijuana business, including, but not limited to, significant diminution in property value, restricted ability to lease space, and infringement of the ability to pursue a redevelopment plan to bring certain of their properties to their highest-and-best use.



Free tagging: 


Let's pick this apart

In addition to wanting to block the Healthy Pharms dispensary, Raj Dhanda demands to be triple reimbursed for the massive losses he claims he is incurring because he is now unable to fully redevelop his parcels

To quote the 1989 epic "Do the Right Thing": "Who told you to buy a brownstone?" Screw. You want to have money seized from somebody else by government fiat because you can't figure out how to make money from Cambridge real estate? What a pig. No sympathy.

Now watch me strain my neck as I do a 180:

In January, when the Planning Board was considering the issue, he wrote the board that he opposed the proposal only because of its location in a historic building on a narrow street that he said would be overwhelmed by extra foot traffic to and from the place and cause possible public-safety issues:

He has a point. He has an honest to God point. You know what would reduce foot traffic to a marijuana dispensary? Having dozens of marijuana dispensaries. Who's stopping that? Oh yeah, government and moron neighbors who don't realize that having more dispensaries would reduce the traffic at each single one. Demand for weed is huge, but it is finite.

About a year ago...

...I asked someone who should know the "what if" about a federal raid. She just looked at me and blinked a few times before saying, "Never happen."
Of course that was before President Clinton.

He could win this one...


I'm not a lawyer. Since the conversation that I had a while back lasted less than an hour and involved real estate, (oh, and lunch was on me...) , she was more than amenable to freelancing for a few minutes. Wanna know more? Pay me, bitch.


By on

Does he think there isn't any reason that other NIMBY numbskulls haven't tried this before?


How could he have already suffered damages based on a place that is not yet open?


They should totally keep the demon weed out of Cambridge.


By on

The nascent legal marijuana industry is not interstate trade. The Commerce Clause says congress has the right “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes."

IANAL, but I don't see how federal law can lay a finger on marijuana legally grown, transported, sold, and consumed within state lines.

And yet

They've been doing it for years.

Activist judges.

Activist Judges

You mean judges whose work you don't like.

Perhaps you should become a judge and show them how it is done?


By on

If 5 of the Supremes agree with this suit, you're okay with this?

I'm also not a lawyer

I did have it explained to me by one that the bar for something to be deemed interstate commerce is so incredibly low that it would be nearly impossible to have something not be considered interstate commerce. The expression he used was that if "a single peppercorn" involved in making something crossed state lines then the whole thing could be deemed interstate commerce.

Does the operation in Georgetown get lights, fertilizer, hoses, gardening tools, packaging, labels, ink for the labels, etc. from out of state? Well, that may be just good enough to have the entire operation considered interstate commerce and allow the feds to get involved.

To give you an idea of how easy it is for the feds to invoke interstate commerce take a look at Wickard v. Filburn.

Wickard v. Filburn

If it *could have* moved in interstate commerce, it affects interstate commerce, and is therefore subject to regulation. Filburn is the decision that's been used by the FedGov since the Depression to regulate whatever it pleased. Only once since has SCOTUS ruled the connection to interstate commerce too tenuous to stand, and that was in 1995, when SCOTUS struck down the first go at the federal Gun Free School Zones Act in U.S. v. Lopez.


By on

You are pointed to Art VI USC (supremacy clause).It does not matter what States vote for...The People California voted against same sex marriage. The federal court overruled them.

U.S. Constitution › Article VI
Article VI
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby,

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

The commerce clause is not adaptable here as it is inferior to the supremacy clause as are all State laws and Constitutions. The Ma. DEclaration of rights is a separate Jurisdiction in which the people transferred their Jurisdiction to the United States and that Jurisdiction is concurrent
The people of this commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves, as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not, or may not hereafter, be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in Congress assembled.

It's about the rule of law, not the issue, no one can challenge or change federal law or defy the Constitution, The rest of the States fall in a domino manner


I would not put it past him

By on

I would not put it past him to be able to stop the shop from opening. He is well known to be a nasty landlord and not someone you want to be on the wrong side of. He has a lot of money, is willing to spend it and really does not care about anyone other than himself. He may not win but one of his best talents is dragging things on until the other side of broke and tired and just gives up.

A man with a plan

By on

Too young to retire from his job at Morgan Stanley conspires to save the corporate entities that be from losing more dollars from the changing face off the world today. So, he decides to be a pawn instead. A glorified pawn, but a pawn just the same and tries to pull off a scam using the federal government (or is it the other way around?) Remember, the people of Massachusetts "voted" for this, not that it means anything anymore, and corporate entities will continue to drag things out in court to delay, delay, delay, as long as they can. In the meantime, drugs continue to flow in through all the countries we've "assisted". Pathetic.


By on

...I don't know who's using this dope as a front-man..but it's a flea circus..He has no case in a MA Court..

Congress says it has a direct effect on interstate commerce

By on

Congress declared (in passing the Controlled Substance Act) that even purely intrastate controlled substance violations have a direct effect on INTERstate commerce. The findings below are in the CSA.

In passing the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (The Controlled Substance Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.), Congress made the following findings:

"(A) Incidents of the traffic which are not an integral part of the interstate or foreign flow, such as manufacture, local distribution, and possession, nonetheless have a substantial and direct effect upon interstate commerce because (i) after manufacture, many controlled substances are transported in interstate commerce, (ii) controlled substances distributed locally usually have been transported in interstate commerce immediately before their distribution, and (iii) controlled substances possessed commonly flow through interstate commerce immediately prior to such possession; (B) Local distribution and possession of controlled substances contribute to swelling the interstate traffic in such substances; (C) Controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate cannot be differentiated from controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate. Thus, it is not feasible to distinguish, in terms of controls, between controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate and controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate; (D) Federal control of the intrastate incidents of the traffic in controlled substances is essential to the effective control of the interstate incidents of such traffic." See 21 U.S.C. § 801


By on

Don't some of these businesses in the Harvard Square Mall sell marijuana paraphernalia (oh, so cleverly described to be used with tobacco - right)? Pipes, vape pens, etc., as well as stickers, signs, buttons promoting pot use? Are they afraid of the competition offered by a dispensary?

Has the owner of the mall even BEEN to a dispensary? They are upscale, clean, professional, and well-run, as well as providing an important service. When I had cancer and was receiving chemotherapy and radiation at Beth Israel Hospital, my oncologist recommended I use marijuana to alleviate symptoms. Why would he have done so if he didn't feel it would help? I have seen the positive results of marijuana therapy for friends who have suffered from debilitating pain. I think the owner needs to do a little research and examine why exactly he is opposing something that is so positive.


Different mall?

I think you may be describing the nearby Garage Mall rather than the Crimson Galeria.

This is very bad.

By on

He's using Cooper and Kirk, the DC law firm that represents Jeff Sessions, and who used this strategy in Colorado successfully. If they can get the 1st circuit to contradict the 10th circuit, they could get it to Donald Trump's SCOTUS, who could use it to reverse all state legalizations. All to stop a dispensary from going in near his building.