Michigan Municipalities Facing Lawsuits from Cannabis Community


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  • Troy, Detroit, and Lansing facing lawsuits
  • Many lawsuits coming from disgruntled dispensary owners forced to close doors
  • In February , the state forced over 160 provisioning centers in Detroit alone to shut down

As the medical marijuana green rush is continuing to spread throughout the state of Michigan, many municipalities are facing lawsuits from various members of the cannabis community. The reasons for these lawsuits vary widely. Many are disgruntled marijuana dispensary operators who were forced to close due to regulatory changes, some are operating under the MMMA caregiver rules trying to enforce their rights, and still others are suing due to unclear permitting and rating systems utilized to chose permit winners. With the industry in constant flux and the State of Michigan marijuana regulations still being written, many municipalities are fearful of making the wrong move and invoking a lawsuit. For example, Harrison Township recently decided to remove the limit of 18 marijuana facilities and accept all applications that were submitted by the deadline, partially due to the potential of getting sued by those applicants who were not chosen.


For example, the Michigan Marijuana Business Collective represented by Cannabis Legal Group recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Troy, centered around the City’s actions on April 23 regarding the medical marijuana ordinance.

The City of Troy enacted an ordinance with the intention of lowering the number of caregiver cultivation operations from 83 to 36.  Additionally, the ordinance would allow on the spot inspections of marijuana grow houses, which the suit claims is a violation of the fourth amendment.  Another issue with this new ordinance in Troy is that there was no public hearing held regarding the ordinance, which violates the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.

Barton Morris states, “Additionally, the ordinance amounts to an unconstitutional ‘regulatory taking’ and deprivation of property by our clients, which is unlawful.”


The City of Lansing was also facing a lawsuit, potentially due to the cap on the number of provisioning centers that the city was allow. The ordinance allowing for medical marijuana facilities to operate within the City of Lansing was passed September of 2017, but it only allowed for 25 provisioning center locations.

In November, 2017, the pro-marijuana group Let Lansing Vote filed a lawsuit against the Lansing City Clerk, Chris Swope, for improperly rejecting a petition that would have forced the City to either repeal the Medical Marijuana Ordinance, or allow the issue to go to a public vote.  Let Lansing Vote felt Lansing’s ordinance was far too restrictive, hence the petition.

The City stated the reasoning behind the denial was two fold: the petition had a large number of invalid signatures (which Let Lansing Vote disputes) and the fear that repealing the ordinance would create a black market spike.

Seemingly without reason, Let Lansing Vote dropped the lawsuit on July 12, 2018.


Yet another major Michigan municipality facing a slew of medical marijuana lawsuits is the City of Detroit. Last year, the Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform brought forth two ballot initiatives that created more lenient regulations for marijuana facilities within Detroit, including decreasing buffer distances to 500 feet and changing the way that permits are awarded. They were voted in during the November election, and quickly challenged by the City of Detroit.

In February of this year, the state forced 161 dispensary locations in the city to shut down after failing to meet the February 15 state licensing application deadline.

While the initial perception was that these medical marijuana businesses were simply ignoring the law and operating illegally, some say that was not the full story.  Attorney Michael Stein is representing many of these businesses and stated, “Detroit has a significant amount of dispensary businesses that should be allowed to stay open because they’re going through the process.”  Many feel that the reason these businesses missed the state application deadline is because they were stuck in the middle of Detroit’s complicated permitting process, the legal battle and red tape, and fluctuating regulations.

Overall it seems that lawsuits among the medical marijuana industry are not uncommon, and it is very safe to assume that more municipalities will face similar issues as the market expands.

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