Unlicensed Dispensary Sparks Controversy in Highland Park Amid Legal Disputes

January 11th, 2024 Legal & Crime
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In Highland Park, Michigan, a recent incident has raised questions and concerns among local officials. City Councilman Khursheed Ash-Shafii expressed disbelief and suspicion over the actions of Nar Cannabis, a Michigan-based marijuana company. Despite a July ruling by a judge invalidating the city's recreational cannabis ordinance, Nar Cannabis proceeded to renovate a vacant building into a dispensary.

This development occurred on Victor Street near Woodward Avenue, where Nar Cannabis renovated the building, adding a new parking lot, signage, and lighting. The dispensary has not yet opened, but company representatives were seen distributing T-shirts during the city's Christmas tree lighting event last month, further fueling speculation.

Ash-Shafii is wary of potential underhanded dealings, questioning the rationale behind investing significant funds into a dispensary unlikely to open without proper authorization. He suspects the existence of a "sinister" background agenda, considering the substantial investment involved in such a venture.

Mayor Glenda McDonald declined to comment on the situation, citing ongoing litigation. Likewise, attempts to reach Nar Cannabis for comment were unsuccessful.

This controversy follows a lawsuit filed in May by Highland Park activist Robert Davis. He alleged that the city's ordinance for zoning cannabis businesses violated the Michigan Zoning and Enabling Act, as it lacked approval from the city's Planning Commission. Davis suggested that the ordinance was designed to benefit donors owning property in the designated zones. Wayne County Circuit Judge Susan Hubbard concurred with this assessment, leading to the ordinance's nullification in July.

The Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency has not yet approved a license for the disputed dispensary. Consequently, without a valid ordinance, dispensaries are not permitted to operate in Highland Park.

Davis suspects corrupt interactions between city officials and the building's owner, given the ongoing development of the dispensary despite legal prohibitions. He has communicated concerns to the judge and city attorney, urging legal action if the city attempts to authorize the dispensary's operation.

The city's attorney, Anthony Chubb, assured Davis that Highland Park had not sanctioned the dispensary's opening and would take legal steps against Nar Cannabis if they tried to open.

This situation adds to the controversy surrounding Highland Park's cannabis ordinance. Last year, efforts to amend the ordinance to address potential corruption were made. The initial ordinance granted the clerk sole authority to issue licenses, a responsibility typically assigned to a board for accountability. Moreover, the ordinance's zoning included areas beneficial to specific city donors, raising further ethical questions.

Amidst these developments, Ash-Shafii has taken a firm stance against discussing new ordinances until illegal grow operations in the city are addressed. He alleges that police inaction has allowed such operations to thrive in abandoned buildings. Ash-Shafii insists on a public referendum for any future ordinance concerning cannabis in Highland Park.

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