Legal Battles in Menominee Over New Marijuana Dispensaries

October 29th, 2023 Legal & Crime
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The city of Menominee finds itself caught in a web of legal challenges, as it grapples with recent lawsuits involving newly established marijuana dispensaries. These legal skirmishes shed light on the complexities of marijuana business licensing and its impact on local communities.

Background: The Licensing Controversy

In 2021, amidst a competitive bid, Menominee approved recreational marijuana permits solely for two dispensaries: Rize and the Fire Station. This decision drew criticism from several applicants, including the parent entities of dispensaries Lume, Higher Love, and the Nirvana Center. These companies subsequently sued the city, leading to a prolonged legal battle.

The crux of the issue stemmed from the claim that Menominee had not been transparent in its selection process. To the surprise of many, especially after the courts backed Menominee's actions, the city chose to settle the lawsuit with the aggrieved companies earlier this year. Mayor Stegeman expressed his perplexity over the settlement decision after a 6-3 council vote on May 24th, noting, "I cannot explain settling a lawsuit we won."

Following the settlement, Lume, Higher Love, and the Nirvana Center received licenses, with plans to establish their dispensaries in close proximity to Rize and the Fire Station.

A Second Legal Challenge

However, in a twist, Rize and the Fire Station hit back with a lawsuit of their own in August. They accused the city of contravening the Open Meetings Act during several discussions centered around the marijuana ordinance. As a result, an injunction was ordered to halt the city from progressing with the new ordinance.

The subsequent ambiguity surrounding this order led to lawyers seeking clearer instructions. On October 17th, Judge Barglind weighed in, specifying that any dispensary which was not operational by 1 p.m. on September 26th should remain closed. This directive was given on the grounds that opening any further dispensaries would necessitate the city continuing its role in the new ordinance.

However, there's a hitch. An email from a lawyer representing Rize to the city clerk on September 27th revealed that upon the city manager's request, the city building inspector had checked Lume, Higher Love, and Nirvana and found none to be operational. Despite this observation, these companies have countered by asserting that they were indeed open prior to the specified date.

Judge Barglind has since made it clear that the court will not undertake any fact verification, leaving the city to discern the truth.

Following the September injunction, Higher Love expressed its intention to join the city's side in the lawsuit. Nirvana echoed this move after the October clarification.

Seeking Clarifications

The present state of affairs has left many seeking answers. James Martone, who represents the Fire Station, confirmed that he reached out to City Manager Brett Botbyl to understand if Menominee plans to enforce the injunction against the newly licensed dispensaries. However, his queries remain unanswered.

This evolving situation underscores the intricate dynamics of the marijuana business in Menominee. As stakeholders await clarity, the broader implications of these legal battles on the future of the marijuana industry in the city hang in the balance.

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