How many Lansing medical marijuana businesses got cease and desist letters? City won’t say

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LANSING — Some Lansing medical marijuana businesses have been warned to stop operating immediately, as both the city and the state zero in on facilities believed to be non-compliant.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has released its list of more than 200 medical marijuana establishments statewide that received cease and desist letters because they did not apply for a state license by the Feb. 15 deadline for facilities operating under Michigan’s emergency rules. Eight of those businesses are in Lansing.

The city of Lansing is taking similar action on the local level, but the mayor’s office remains mum on several key details.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, who took office Jan. 1, said the city is enforcing its 2017 medical marijuana ordinance. That ordinance outlined the city’s medical marijuana licensing process and capped the number of dispensaries, also called provisioning centers, at 25 citywide.

Schor also says that the city continues to enforce an executive order issued by his predecessor Virg Bernero in December.

That order warned medical marijuana facilities to apply for a city license by Dec. 15 or face being shutdown by the city starting Dec. 22. That order stemmed from the state’s emergency rules, which effectively allowed marijuana businesses to legally stay open while they waited to see if their applications were rejected or denied at the state and local level.

The city says it has sent cease and desist letters to medical marijuana dispensaries that failed to comply with that order because they did not apply for a license by Dec. 15.

But, the city won’t say which facilities got those letters. Valerie Marchand, a spokeswoman with the mayor’s office, said the city would not disclose that information and that it has been longstanding policy not to release information from an “ongoing investigation.”

The Lansing State Journal filed a FOIA request for the cease and desist letters, which the city denied as relating to “ongoing police investigations.”

LARA, the state’s regulatory agency, released the state’s list of businesses that received cease and desist notices without requiring a FOIA request.

Marchand also declined to to provide the number of facilities that received cease and desist letters, again citing ongoing police investigations.

It is evident that at least 18 medical marijuana businesses were told to cease and desist. What isn’t clear is exactly how many businesses other than those 18 were also ordered by the city to shut down. What’s not known is how many dispensaries that did not apply for a city license have received cease and desist letters, or the names of those businesses.

The City Clerk’s Office, which is overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses in Lansing, has released a public summary of medical marijuana applicants, which shows that 18 dispensary applications have thus far been denied. The city includes cease and desist language in its denial letters.

 

There is one facility — Capital Dank on South Washington Avenue — that received a cease and desist letter from the state after its local application already had been denied by the city. As of Friday morning, the business had a sign on its door, indicating it was closed temporarily for “maintenance.” Capital Dank could not be reached for comment.

Marchand also declined to comment on how many facilities might still be open, despite having been told to cease operations.

Elaine Womboldt, facilitator of the community group Rejuvenating South Lansing, said she would like the city to be more transparent about its actions related to medical marijuana.

“If it truly is because it would harm a law enforcement investigation, I could see why they wouldn’t give the names,” Womboldt said. She added, however, she believed the city should disclose the number of facilities targeted.

“The names are one thing,” Womboldt said. “The number is another. There’s no good reason why they can’t say that.”

Members of Rejuvenating South Lansing have pushed city officials to rein in the medical marijuana industry. For much of Bernero’s tenure, Lansing’s medical marijuana businesses operated “at their own peril” in a legal gray area.

There is more legal clarity now, following Lansing City Council’s approval of its ordinance in September and the state’s implementation of emergency rules for licensing in November. Marijuana businesses will eventually need licenses from both the city and the state to operate legally.

Womboldt would like to see the city move more quickly to enforce those rules.

“The illegal dispensaries have been blatant,” Womboldt said. “My feeling is that Lansing has always been very liberal and has bent over backward to accommodate the marijuana industry.”

Other critics say Lansing’s medical marijuana policies are too restrictive. A pro-marijuana group called Let Lansing Vote is suing the city, alleging that City Clerk Chris Swope improperly validated a petition that would have challenged Lansing’s 2017 medical marijuana ordinance.

Jarren Osmar, a Let Lansing Vote organizer, is skeptical of the city’s decision to withhold details about the facilities that received cease and desist letters. He speculated that officials did so to shield themselves from questions about whether the city issued some letters in error.

Meanwhile, five dispensaries have filed a separate lawsuit against the city after the clerk’s office denied their business applications on a provisional basis. After being rejected by the clerk, applicants have the option to file an appeal with the city.

The businesses filed a motion, asking the court to let them remain open while they await outcome of the city’s appeals process. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Jamo denied that motion last month.

“My clients are facing irreparable harm,” said Joshua Covert, an attorney for some of the dispensaries. “Patients aren’t being served. My clients have inventory that is going bad.”

This sign was posted on the door of Got Meds, a medical
This sign was posted on the door of Got Meds, a medical marijuana dispensary on S. Cedar Street in Lansing, as of Friday, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Sarah Lehr)

Got Meds on South Cedar Street is among the dispensaries suing the city to stay open while appealing its license denial.

“People depend on us for their meds,” said Got Meds Marketing Director Mike Barron, who is also a member of Let Lansing Vote. “When all is said and done, the city has shut down a lot of businesses that do a lot of good for the community.”

Contact Sarah Lehr at (517) 377-1056 or slehr@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGLehr.

Ordered to close
The state sent cease and desist letters to these eight medical marijuana businesses in Lansing:

Our Friendly Gardens
Patients First Inc
First Property Holdings
Wellness Lansing
First Class Releaf (Capitol City LLC/First Class Inc)
1520 CAVANAUGH LLC
The Lansing Market
Capital Dank
The city rejected 18 medical marijuana license applications from these businesses:

Capital Dank
TNT Industries
Superior Wellness and Solutions
Lansing Green Mile
The Emerald City
Nature’s Alternative Lansing
The Herbal Collection
The Med Store
Kola
420 Solutions of Lansing
Huron Wellness and Solutions
Cedar Leaf
Great Lakes Wellness Solutions (two applications denied)
First Class Inc.
Got Meds
Cap City Medication Station
Dank House

By: Sarah Lehr, Lansing State Journal

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