M.Live Article: Judicial ceasefire issued in Michigan U.P. border town marijuana battle

MENOMINEE, MI — As deep-pocketed marijuana companies aggressively jockey for market share in Menominee, 41st Circuit Court Judge Mary B. Barglind on Sept. 26 ordered a ceasefire, issuing a preliminary injunction that blocks the city from granting any more marijuana business licenses until a pending lawsuit is resolved

What remains in question is whether three recently-opened dispensaries at the center of the legal dispute — Lume, the Nirvana Center and Higher Love — will be allowed to continue operations.

“The court granted the motion for preliminary injunction. Unfortunately what that actually means in practice is kind of an open question,” said Attorney Matthew Cross, who represents Menominee.

Attorneys for both sides have asked the judge for clarification.

“I was very specific to ask the court, ‘Hey, do you want us to claw back these licenses?’” Cross said. “‘Are you saying we should revoke them or make them stop operating?’ and the judge said, ‘No, just maintain the status quo.’ So we take that to mean the city does not need to do anything additional.”

So far, the city of nearly 8,400 residents has issued licenses to five marijuana shops with slots set aside for least two more, and no cap on the total number of future licenses.

The small town on Lake Michigan’s Green Bay in the western Upper Peninsula is prime cannabis real estate because it draws in customers from Wisconsin, where marijuana remains illegal.

Menominee’s elected leaders in 2019 were hesitant to join Michigan’s growing marijuana industry, now on track to reach $3 billion in sales this year. That changed in October 2020, when the City Council passed an ordinance creating a scoring system for the selection of two businesses that would be awarded recreational marijuana retail licenses.

First Property Holdings — operating retail stores under the name Rize, and the Fire Station, which runs the most dispensaries in the Upper Peninsula, nine — won the licenses in September 2021. Fourteen businesses applied.

Five of the businesses that did not get licenses have filed lawsuits, alleging the selection process was flawed.

The companies that sued include: Lume, a large chain operated by Attitude Wellness; Higher Love, owned by OI Holdings and Higher Love Corp.; Nu Group, operating seven retail licenses under the name Nirvana Center Provisioning; Highwire Farms with stores in Adrian and Coldwater; and Rocky North, the company that operates Green Pharm stores.

Rize and the Fire Station weren’t allowed to open until the lawsuits worked their way through the courts over the next two years. On May 17, Judge Mary Barglind dismissed the lawsuits. The Fire Station opened in July and Rize in August.

Even though the lawsuit was over, the threat of appeals loomed. The businesses that missed out on the initial licenses wanted to make a deal.

In exchange for altering the ordinance and allowing those businesses to secure licenses, they would agree to forgo further litigation.

Furthermore, those businesses agreed to pay on behalf of Menominee any litigation costs arising from the settlement.

The City Council in a 6-3 vote agreed to the settlement on May 25. This meant Rize and the Fire Station would no longer be the only shops in town.

Rize and Fire Station then funded a citizen-led referendum committee to pose a ballot question to voters that would limit the number of marijuana businesses to the original two.



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