Berkley moving ahead in marijuana licensing process after lawsuits dismissed

Court rules city violated Open Meetings Act

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 31, 2021

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BERKLEY — Recent developments in Berkley’s ongoing litigation involving its marijuana licensing ordinance have led the city to resume its process.

In December 2020, two different lawsuits were filed against Berkley by more than 10 prospective businesses that weren’t selected in the city’s marijuana licensing process. A few months earlier, the city had reviewed and scored the 30 businesses that had applied to operate in Berkley and planned to move forward with the three that scored the highest.

Lawsuits were filed before the process with the businesses could continue, and the Oakland County Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction that put everything on hold.

Berkley filed to dismiss both cases. According to City Attorney John Staran, Circuit Court Judge Yasmine Poles dismissed the principal claims made by the plaintiffs that the city’s local scoring criteria allegedly was in conflict with the state’s marijuana laws.

However, the court did find that Berkley violated the Open Meetings Act in the way that it scored the businesses’ applications, and the court invalidated the scores that were issued last September.

“(Poles) found that the city’s scoring process, the manner in which the city manager scored the license applications last fall, should’ve been done at an open meeting,” Staran said.

While the city disagreed with the ruling, City Manager Matt Baumgarten held a nearly six-hour meeting July 14 where he scored all the marijuana license applications that Berkley received last year. The top scoring businesses — with the same totals they received last fall — were Quality Roots Inc. with 310, Operation Grow with 301 and Attitude Wellness with 301.

The plaintiffs have filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals regarding Poles’ decision, which attorney Aaron Geyer, who represents the plaintiffs in both cases, referred to as “inaccurate.”

“We believe the judge committed reversible error by not determining that Berkley’s marijuana ordinance violated the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act,” he said.

As it currently stands, Berkley is allowed to move forward with its marijuana licensing process while the case is in the Court of Appeals. Businesses that disagree with the city’s scores have 14 days to appeal them, which would be heard by a City Council-appointed hearing officer, Pleasant Ridge City Attorney Greg Need.

According to the city, the appeal process will take place before plans submitted by the top three scoring businesses can be reviewed by the Planning Commission.

“That’s actually the point we were at when the injunction was issued,” Staran said. “We’re getting close now to the point where we were when everything got held up when the litigation got filed.”

To review the city’s scoring results and latest updates on its marijuana licensing process, visit ​​www.berkleymich.org/marihuana.

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