Warren settles medical marijuana dispensary lawsuit

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 6, 2021

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WARREN — With a web of litigation swirling over Warren’s botched process for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, officials have approved an agreement and an ordinance change that would let up to 18 medical marijuana dispensaries set up shop in the city.

The Warren City Council voted 5-2 on Aug. 24 to approve a settlement that would result in the dismissal of litigation against the city in Macomb County Circuit Court. The litigation arose from an original 2019 lawsuit brought by a list of entities that were denied licenses. The case was joined by another batch of 15 operators who saw their licenses awarded by the city and then revoked by a judge, who ruled that Warren’s Medical Marihuana Review Committee had violated the Open Meetings Act during the vetting process.

According to materials provided to the council, those 15 original license holders would receive a conditional city of Warren medical marihuana provisioning center license within seven days of the effective resolution, thus settling any claim of damages arising out of the original  

In a separate measure, the City Council voted 5-2 to amend Warren’s code of ordinances to increase the number of medical marijuana provisioning center licenses from 15 to 18.

Councilmen Garry Watts and Eddie Kabacinski voted no on both items.

“I think this is a bad settlement. I’ve said from the beginning, the marijuana situation was handled terribly,” Watts said. “Our city attorney mishandled it. We have a councilman sitting on this council, as well as the former council, that are attorneys that know better than to have a meeting like that.

“Settling this, in my opinion, for 15 licenses, is going to open us up for the other 45 that are going to sue us. This is a no-win situation, and my vote will be no,” Watts said.

Council Secretary Mindy Moore said the agreement was based on information the City Council received in closed session, in concurrence with city administration.

“We’re closing this case, eliminating the potential for the city to be saddled with millions of dollars in potential claims, and we’re glad to have this behind us,” Warren City Council President Pat Green said. “We didn’t start this process, but hopefully now we’ve finished it.”

The settlement, if it stands and is not further contested legally, would cover only medical marijuana dispensaries initially. The City Council voted previously to opt out of recreational marijuana dispensary licensing.

The city must, however, according to the agreement, amend its ordinance to increase the maximum number of retail or “recreational” licenses from zero to 18 within a year. It must also accept applications for those licenses and include a “competitive process (which may be done by an outside agency)” by which to award them.

Appellate court litigation related to the original “Pinebrook Warren LLC” case, brought by the entities originally denied a medical marijuana dispensary license in Warren, remained pending at press time, according to court records.