Menominee's Efforts to Resolve Dispensary Lawsuits Hit Roadblocks

March 22nd, 2024 Legal & Crime
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In Menominee, Michigan, the city's legal disputes with several cannabis dispensaries are showing no signs of resolution, complicating efforts to find a mutual agreement. Mayor Casey Hoffman's optimism for a near-term settlement has been dampened following a recent court hearing, highlighting ongoing challenges in negotiations that have spanned several years.

The city has been embroiled in legal battles over the number of dispensaries allowed within its boundaries. These disputes took a new turn at a recent court session presided over by 41st Circuit Court Judge Mary Barglind, where attorneys representing both the city and the dispensaries, including Rize, the Fire Station, Lume, Higher Love, and individual Adam Michaud, discussed various legal motions via Zoom.

The heart of the contention lies in the renewal of local cannabis business licenses introduced by the city, which now include a clause that prohibits dispensaries from suing the city. This was after Judge Barglind mandated mediation earlier in the year, leading to Rize and the Fire Station proposing a partial settlement. However, disagreements persist, particularly around the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), specifically concerning the city's limits on cannabis business licenses.

Menominee's City Council rejected an initial settlement offer in February, countering with a proposal that sought a comprehensive dismissal of the lawsuit. This proposal included amendments to zoning laws and allowed the disputing dispensaries to relocate. Despite these efforts, attorney Mike Cox, representing Rize, expressed frustration over the city's rejection of multiple settlement ideas, suggesting the ball is now in the city's court to initiate the next step.

The city's legal representative, Matt Cross, pointed to Lume and Higher Love as obstacles in reaching a settlement, citing their resistance to dismissing MRTMA claims. This impasse has led to a situation where plaintiffs are considering taking their claims to trial, a move Cross and Mayor Hoffman view skeptically, especially given the "no lawsuits" clause in the renewed licenses.

Mayor Hoffman stands by the city's position, indicating a potential path to revoking the dispensaries' licenses if deemed in violation of their agreements. However, he also expresses a desire to keep these businesses in Menominee for their economic contributions.

During the recent court hearing, the complexity of the legal dispute was on full display. The plaintiffs sought to narrow their complaint by dropping several counts, leaving only those claims tied to the alleged violation of MRTMA by the city's prior settlement with other dispensaries. Discussions also delved into accusations of tortious interference and the legitimacy of a ballot referendum committee, further complicating the legal landscape.

With a pretrial conference scheduled for April 11th, the legal saga between Menominee and its cannabis dispensaries continues, with each party looking for a path forward that addresses their concerns while navigating the intricacies of state cannabis regulations.

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