Judge allows 3 shuttered marijuana shops in Michigan U.P. to reopen

posted on Nov 14, 2023 on mlive

MENOMINEE, MI — A judge is allowing three marijuana shops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to reopen after shutting them down 10 days ago.

“The judge suspended the temporary restraining order,” said Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan lawyer Denise Policella, who represents the Nirvana Center marijuana store in Menominee. “We have been cleared to open and will be opening Tuesday (Nov. 14). We have a hearing Wednesday morning and will continue to abide by the court’s orders and direction of the city.”

Two other shops in Menominee that were temporarily closed, Lume Cannabis and Higher Love, reopened Monday, as well, according to their business social media accounts.

“It feels good to be back, Menominee,” was posted to Higher Love’s Facebook page Monday evening. “We’re not wasting a minute, our drive-thru is up and running until 9 p.m. tonight. We’ve got some big things coming and we can’t wait. What’s that saying … the comeback is always greater than the setback.”

The Lume account stated: “We are open. See you soon.”

The closures were due to an ongoing legal battle over which and how many businesses should be licensed to sell marijuana in Menominee, a town of about 8,500 residents on the southern tip of the western U.P. on Lake Michigan and adjacent to the Wisconsin border.

Marijuana companies are eager to open along the border of the U.P. in order to capitalize on out-of-state customers, especially from Wisconsin, where marijuana remains illegal.

Menominee has been entangled in lawsuits since it issued the first licenses to Rize and the Fire Station in 2021. Those businesses opened and have remained operating since summer. Lume, Higher Love and Nirvana Center previously sued, along with two other businesses, alleging the selection process that gave Rize and Fire Station licenses was flawed.

A judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuits in May, but the businesses convinced the majority of Menominee City Council members to enter a settlement agreement on May 22 that would add six new marijuana businesses and uncap limits on future marijuana retail licenses. The settlement also ensured that the marijuana companies would cover any legal costs the city incurred because of the settlement.

Adam Michaud and others started a ballot referendum committee to ask voters if Menominee should have more than two marijuana businesses. The petition drive by the Committee to Stop Unlimited Marijuana Shops was funded by Rize and the Fire Station, according to public records reviewed by MLive.

The referendum was certified, but the City Council found a loophole to subvert it. The City Council repealed the ordinance that was the target of the referendum and passed a replica, except the new version also included $15,000 for the Menominee Police Department. The Menominee Charter doesn’t allow ballot referendums on laws that included funding measures.

The move led Michaud, Rize and the Fire station to file a lawsuit in state court alleging City Council decisions were made as a result of meetings that violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Presiding Menominee Circuit Court Judge Mary Barglind on Sept. 26 ruled that the city should maintain the “status quo” in regard to marijuana business activity. This meant the city could issue no more licenses until the lawsuit was resolved. In the meantime, Lume, Higher Love and Nirvana Center had already received their licenses and began operating.

Menominee officials, Rize and Fire Station contended the competing marijuana businesses didn’t begin making public sales until after the judge’s order, which they claimed was a violation. Barglind ordered the three shops be shut down on Nov. 3. She held an emergency hearing on Friday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 13. At the conclusion, she suspended the order that forced the shops to close.

“The city is pleased that the court has suspended the temporary restraining order, as we didn’t believe the restraining order or the underlying preliminary injunction was ever warranted given the nature of the allegations raised by these plaintiffs and the undisputed facts,” said attorney Matt Cross, who represents Menominee in the lawsuit. “The alleged Open Meetings Act violations in plaintiffs’ amended complaint are almost entirely technical violations that are not a legitimate basis for a court to invalidate a public body’s decision under the (Open Meetings Act).”

City Council never attempted to make decisions in secret and the public was fully informed about what the City Council was doing throughout the last almost three years of litigation.”

There is another hearing on the lawsuit related to various motions set for Wednesday, Nov. 15.

“No comment as things are still in flux,” said attorney Michael Cox, who represents Rize. Attorneys for the Fire Station, Higher Love, Lume have not responded to MLive requests for comment.

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