LAPEER – The road to medical marijuana dispensaries within the City of Lapeer has seen its share of bumps, to say the least. Since opting in to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) in April of this year (2018), a series of snags has slowed the process down to a snail’s pace.
Applicants for six medical marijuana dispensary licenses have been reviewed on a merit-based system drafted by the city clerk’s office and legal counsel. Many dispensaries have taken serious issue with their scores, and now, yet another lawsuit has been filed against the City of Lapeer over the scoring of a dispensary, bringing the total number of formal complaints and/or lawsuits to six (6).
As it stands, Michigan has one of the largest medical marijuana programs in the nation – second only to California in terms of patient numbers. The state’s medical marijuana business is expected to generate $711 million in sales and $21 million in tax revenues. According to Forbes.com, Michigan’s program also received one of the highest grades from Americans for Safe Access.
That momentum and overwhelming support, however, doesn’t seem to have made its way into some of the smaller and right-leaning cities throughout the state, including Lapeer. Many local governments like Lapeer, which has a population of just less than 10,000, were less than eager to welcome marijuana-related businesses into their communities, citing a host of reasons. Many municipalities either voted to “opt-out” or did nothing, which, as of Dec. 15, 2017, was the same as “opting-out”.
Some communities accept medical marijuana use for compassionate reasons, including but not limited to terminal illnesses. And many believe that the new Facilities Licensing Act will better enable, or simplify, the spirit and actual practice of the patient-caregiver relationship. Other communities may be responding to a real demand or a broad majority support locally for providing medical marijuana facilities and business opportunities. And, perhaps most important to concerned municipalities, the introduction of cannabusinesses may represent a significant revenue source.
“Lapeer’s newest City Commissioner took it upon himself to limit the City of Lapeer to only six (6) medical marijuana dispensaries, with a major lack of foresight and periphery, inevitably costing Lapeer and its taxpayers unnecessary money,” said Lapeer-based attorney and marijuana activist Bernard Jocuns. “These businesses are thoroughly vetted through a state licensing process. People aren’t just throwing up a random shingle or a lemonade stand and trying to sell marijuana to just anybody. This is a serious and systemic, exhaustive process and the State of Michigan isn’t cutting corners. The city needs this revenue, and with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on the horizon, there’s no reason a municipality shouldn’t enjoy the benefits. This wouldn’t cost the citizens more taxes and will make the City of Lapeer much more inviting, spurring economic activity, revenue and jobs.”
Though dispensaries within the City of Lapeer will be limited to a half dozen, the Lapeer City Commission is not limiting the number of medical marijuana grow facilities that can locate in the city, nor are there restrictions placed on the number of processors, testing facilities or secure transporters that may operate in the city.
Lapeer City Manager Dale Kerbyson said that the three-person panel in charge of the assessments were selected based on their community standing and whether they are “above reproach.” The three individuals assessed, scored and ranked each of the 65 items on the merit application to receive a maximum point value of one. The highest overall total score is 65 points in the merit-based scoring system.
After 17 merit applications were reviewed and scored by the three-person panel from Massachusetts-based ICF Consulting, the City of Lapeer posted results of the parties that sought to obtain a marijuana dispensary licenses. Two applications were withdrawn after they were submitted. The six companies who were awarded medical marijuana dispensary licenses have been issued provisional licenses by the City of Lapeer and have one year to submit their business plans to the city, provided all other conditions under the city’s and State of Michigan’s statute and regulatory requirements are met.
The provisional license means only that the applicant has submitted a valid application for a marijuana facility license, that the proposed facility is located in a proper zoning district, that the proposed facility is not located in a required buffer zone and that the applicant will not locate or operate a marijuana facility without obtaining all other permits and approvals required.
The six provisional licenses were granted to the following parties:
- Alternative RX, LLC: 63 points — Located on a parcel of vacant land on Imlay City Road, the proposed name of the business is Alternative RX.
- Pure Lapeer, LLC: 63 points — Under the same business name, this dispensary is proposed for 1330 Imlay City Road, next to Purified Water & Ice.
- DNVK Lapeer Inc.: 62 points (seeking to be Lapeer’s first legal medical marijuana dispensary) — The Pier Provisioning Center is proposed for 2401 W. Genesee in the Genesee Place plaza (across from Lapeer County Animal Control).
- Lapeer Infused Inc.: 60 points — To be located at 111 W. Genesee if approved by city planners, the business will go in what is now a small retail building between Hungry Dan’s restaurant and Thick’s Glass. Plans are to renovate the approximate 1,850-squarefoot building that now contains a cellular phone retailer and phone repair shop.
- SPMI LLC: 58 points — Submitted with a DBA (doing business as) name of Shango Premium Provisioning, this dispensary will be located at 224 E. Genesee between Subway and Hugo’s Pizza in the River Bend Center plaza.
- TRC Lapeer LLC: 58 points — The ReLeaf Center of Lapeer is proposed for 200 E. Genesee Street.
Jamil Joubran, a Davison business owner who applied for assessment in Lapeer, went before the Lapeer City Commission on July 2 with a complaint, citing his concerns to each of the city commissioners as well as Mayor Bill Sprague and Kerbyson. His business application under the name of High Society Wellness earned 56 points, and did not make the cut to be awarded a license.
Joubran contends his application was not properly scored. He said he’s invested $200,000 to date on the property and toward the license application process, and sought assistance from the administration. In his letter he identified several areas he thought should have scored higher, giving his application 59 points that would have made it No. 5 on the list of dispensary centers.
As a result of the scoring, Joubran’s application was placed on a waitlist, which includes seven others. He challenged the application’s “liquid capital” definition and stated his net worth is $1.9 million. He also questioned why under the Facility Improvements section of the application that he wasn’t scored for his plans to renovate a vacant structure. The company that scored the applications gave him zero points for plans to renovate a property, while Joubran says he should’ve been given one point for his intended plans. Another issue in question by Joubran is the number of parking spaces required.
Then, on Aug. 13, attorneys for a proposed dispensary called FB Lapeer filed a lawsuit against the City of Lapeer and now await scheduling before 40th Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka. FB Lapeer placed seventh in the application process, earning 56 points. They challenge the scoring process, but unlike three other challengers who have filed suit against the City of Lapeer claiming the applications weren’t scored properly, the FB Lapeer counsel has filed a legal injunction to require the City to halt all proceedings related to the issuance of medical marijuana licenses.
“Judge Holowka can issue a temporary halt to licensing while further review is made of the scoring process is done, or he can issue a permanent stop,” city attorney Mike Nolan said following a meeting of the Lapeer City Commission. Nolan informed the Commission of the recent legal challenge at the meeting.
Nolan said no hearing date before Judge Holowka has been set yet, though he believes the latest suit will move forward at a quicker pace. “This could be a game changer,” said Nolan.
“There will undoubtedly be more lawsuits,” contends Jocuns, who will soon host an informative session that will provide attendees information on what to expect with the impending CRMLA. “This is ambivalent on the city’s part. The MMFLA is a great way to make a community more vibrant, more productive, more attractive – not to mention a great way to dispel many of the untruths and myths surrounding marijuana. We need to be moving forward with these businesses, rather than defending ourselves from unnecessary and avoidable lawsuits.”
Interested in starting a marijuana business un the Michigan’s MMFLA or need an aggressive to fight your battle with the Government contact the Jocuns Law Firm @ (810) 245-8900. Criminal Defense, Marijuana Business, All Accidents & Injuries.