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Black delays decision on cannabis suit

News Photo by Julie Riddle Backgrounded by the Alpena County Courthouse, a “For Sale” sign stands in the lot where one of two medical marijuana shops is scheduled to be built. Progress on the shops may be halted by a motion filed by a lawsuit filed against the City of Alpena.

ALPENA — At least another week is needed before Alpena city officials will know if they can proceed with their plan to establish two medical marijuana provisioning centers in Alpena.

In court on Wednesday, 26th Circuit Court Judge Ed Black heard arguments from Sean Gallagher, attorney for Alpena businessman Bob Currier, who asked Black to prevent the city from moving forward with the development of the two businesses while the court addresses a lawsuit filed by Currier.

Currier’s suit claims city officials violated the state Open Meetings Act by discussing which businesses owners should be awarded licenses via email chains to which the public was not privy.

City officials named in the lawsuit are also accused of accepting application fees for two applicants after the deadline, violating the city’s ordinance.

Grand Rapids attorney Amanda Zdarsky, representing the city, argued Currier and his attorney were trying to stop an action that was already in motion after a decision by the Alpena Municipal Council in September.

Zdarsky said the preliminary injunction Currier sought is intended to halt future action and doesn’t apply to what’s already happened.

Black questioned Currier’s attorney about the timeliness of his lawsuit.

Black agreed to give both attorneys until Jan. 9 to file additional paperwork making their points, including arguments from Currier’s attorney as to why he should be allowed to file his grievance after the deadline.

Black said he’ll make his decision before Jan. 12, when the Alpena Planning Commission is scheduled to review site plans of the two companies chosen to create marijuana shops in Alpena.

That meeting will be open to the public, and public comment will be allowed.

If Black decides to suspend the city’s action, that decision will be unrelated to the final outcome of the lawsuit.

Currier’s application was ranked fourth out of six applicants in a points system established by the city, even after he appealed the decision and the Municipal Council revisited their scoring system.

If the two applicants whose fees were accepted late hadn’t been admitted to the process, Currier would have been second in line and able to open his proposed business, his attorney said.

The attorney contended that, in addition to the late fees and questionable email communications, the city’s entire system of choosing who would be able to open the marijuana shops may contradict state laws, and the city may need to chuck the whole process and start over.

The city’s attorney did not respond to that suggestion.

According to Currier’s attorney, courts around the state are addressing similar issues as cities bring the previously outlawed type of business into their communities.

As of now, the new marijuana shops are slated to be located at the former Thunder Bay River Restaurant and in a building to be constructed on a lot diagonal from the Alpena Courthouse, both on Chisholm Street.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

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