EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—Lawyers representing the various marijuana retailers competing to open in Menominee already are poking holes in each other’s legal filings as they attempt to persuade the 41st Circuit Court to decide in their favor.
They’re in a battle over who should receive the precious two adult-use recreational marijuana retail licenses in the city of Menominee.
By limiting the number of recreational marijuana stores, the city has upped the stakes involved. Whoever wins the coveted licenses stands to ring up big sales because of the lack of competition here.
Several companies that didn’t receive a recreational-marijuana retail license are trying to invalidate the process to receive another chance at a license. Some also are attempting to block the two awarded recreational-use retail licenses, Rize and The Fire Station Cannabis Co., from opening until the cases are resolved.
In Motions to Intervene, Rize and The Fire Station said their due process rights are at stake if the court decides the other cases without considering their positions. They want to be allowed to proceed with their plans to open marijuana stores here.
Attorneys for several suing companies will likely end up arguing against the city in one large, consolidated case to save time and money, while Rize and The Fire Station could argue in the city’s favor to keep their licenses.
In hearings Tuesday, Judge Mary Brouillette Barglind listened to attorneys for various suing companies before deciding most of the cases will be consolidated into one. She set Dec. 13 at 1:30 p.m. as the date for a consolidated hearing, where she could decide to issue a preliminary injunction.
If there was ever a case to be made for consolidation, this is the case, Barglind said.
Only one attorney at the hearing disagreed with consolidation. “I think there are reasons that would militant against consolidation,” said Attorney Kevin Blair of Honigman LLP, who is representing Attitude Wellness/Lume, which received a retail license for a medical marijuana store but not for a recreational marijuana store. It is expected to take over the La Cabana restaurant property unless the court issues an injunction.
Blair said Lume filed its lawsuit before the others and its case is sufficiently different to be heard separately, but the judge disagreed.
If the court were to issue an injunction, the licenses awarded to all players could be voided and the City of Menominee could be told to start the application review process over. The city awarded a total of eight licenses, including two recreational-use marijuana retail licenses, two medical marijuana retail licenses, three grow permits and a processing center license.
NU Group’s attorney Chris Royce of the Pollicella PLLC law firm in Howell appeared before Barglind at 1 p.m. Tuesday in a phone call before the 2 p.m. pre-trial conference with the other companies. The merits of consolidating the cases was raised and NU Group agreed to the Dec. 13 date.
Two other suing companies weren’t at Tuesday’s hearing, held in Menominee Courtroom B and on Zoom, and Barglind said she will hear what attorneys representing Highwire Farms have to say before deciding whether Highwire will be added to the consolidated case.
Attorneys for OI Holdings and Higher Love, which also has filed a lawsuit against the City of Menominee because the company was denied a retail license, have requested a jury trial. It’s unclear whether this case also will be merged with the others.
At least four companies denied retail licenses are suing the City of Menominee over the way it scored applications, made recommendations and approved licenses, with most saying the city violated the Open Meetings Act and Michigan’s marijuana act. Besides seeking another opportunity to be awarded a retail license, some are seeking monetary compensation for the dollars they’ve invested in what they say was a flawed application process.
Rize and The Fire Station Cannabis Co. are objecting to these lawsuits. Because they’ve already been awarded retail licenses, they’re on the side of the City of Menominee, which will defend its process. Attorney Matt Cross of Plunkett Cooney is expected to defend the city in most if not all of these cases.
“Lume’s problem isn’t the city’s process because they got a medical marijuana license. They only object to the fact that they didn’t get an adult-use license,” said attorney Mike Cox of The Cox Law firm, which is representing Rize. Rize wants to keep its adult-use license because it has already paid $900,000 in cash to purchase property at 3213 10th St. and has started to demolish the inside of the former Stang Sales & Service building.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) “issued us a permit to demolish the site. We’re demolishing the entire interior. We have a demolishing crew out there right now,” Cox said.
Rize aims to keep the construction on track to open within 180 days from the date it received the retail license. “Once you have a license, we have a protected interest and it may not be revoked without due process,” Cox said.