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TRAVERSE CITY — Unanswered questions and ongoing lawsuits prompted Traverse City commissioners to take a second look at some of its marijuana business regulations.

Commissioners agreed Monday to re-form a subcommittee that drafted its scoring rubric for competitively awarding recreational marijuana retail and microbusiness licenses. They also agreed to consider on Nov. 16 whether to remove the sunset date from an ongoing pause on issuing any provisional medical marijuana licenses.

Both moves come as the city’s embroiled in three lawsuits involving its rules for marijuana businesses, including one raising the question of whether all medical cannabis retailers can sell recreational marijuana as well.

City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht said she wants the ad hoc committee take one more look at the scoring rubric before licenses are issued. That could head off any court rulings that the city issued the licenses improperly, although, she added, that could happen anyway.



mcgillivary brian

McGillivary


Commissioner Brian McGillivary said he believes the city is almost certain to be sued again.

“However this thing shakes out, we seem to be the test case of Michigan and we’re going to be sued again,” he said.



shamroe amy

Shamroe


Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe said the ad hoc can review the rubric in light of recent developments, and she hoped commissioners didn’t need to start from scratch. Their review shouldn’t be anything like the months-long drafting process, but more of a check-in that doesn’t delay ongoing processes.

“We do want to continue to see this move on and move forward as best we can,” she said.

City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said the city will accept applications for recreational marijuana retailers Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, although that could change.

That means the ad hoc committee will have to act fast, as applicants likely are already lining up properties and making other plans, McGillivary said.

Kevin Blair, an attorney representing one of the marijuana businesses suing the city, suggested the city add an indemnification clause to its ordinance. That clause would require anyone who applies for the competitive process and wins to defend the city against potential legal challenges from applicants who didn’t.

“I appreciate the irony of an attorney saying this, but I respectfully disagree with the sentiment that litigation is inevitable,” he said.

Blair is representing Green Stem LLC, which filed suit after city leaders in April agreed to stop issuing provisional medical marijuana retail permits. The company was 14th in line for one of 13 permits — and the next up should one of the 13 drawn in a 2019 lottery have failed to open by deadline.

Commissioners on Monday set up a future vote to remove a Dec. 31 sunset date they originally set when pushing pause on any more provisional permits. Instead, they could opt to continue the pause until commissioners decide to resume issuing the permits again.

Trible-Laucht told commissioners the question of whether medical marijuana retailers will be able to operate as recreational cannabis stores remains unanswered. That issue is one of the reasons commissioners stopped issuing provisional medical marijuana retail permits.

Blair asked city leaders not to remove the sunset date.

“Commissioners commented left and right that this was just a temporary pause,” he said. “I urge you not to perpetually extend that freezing of the waiting list.”

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