Court denies committee’s bid to block Marijuana referendum

Court denies committee’s bid to block Marijuana referendum

Judge Mary Barglind denied the request for an intervention from the Committee for Economic Development in a recent court hearing involving the newest marijuana case in the 41st Circuit Court in Menominee.

The state court case filed by The Fire Station, Rize and the Committee to Stop Unlimited Marijuana Shops on Aug. 17 will proceed as planned without the Committee for Economic Development involved.

The lawsuit mainly discusses violations of the Open Meetings Act and city charter, with the most significant takeaway being that the city went into a closed session on July 27 without a valid purpose.

Jason Schneider, represents Rize, one of the plaintiffs. The intervention was suggested to muddy the waters, Schneider said.

“All it really is is spin,” he said.

He referred to statements by Emily Palacios, an attorney with Miller Johnson, representing the Committee for Economic Development, the intervening defendant.

There should not be a referendum on the ballot in November, Palacios said.

“We are diametrically opposed to those defeated petitions getting new life,” she said.

Palacios defended the city council’s actions when it passed its third marijuana ordinance that bypassed a petition with enough signatures to get on the ballot in November.

Since Barglind denied the intervening motion by Palacios, there’s still a chance that Menominee voters will have a say on the issue, depending on how the court rules.

Palacios attended the court hearing with the attorney for OI Holdings, Joslin Monahan, and Joe Jones, a lawyer retained by OI Holdings.

All plaintiffs spoke after Palacios made the opening statement.

Eric Doster represents the ballot committee. The committee’s goal was to put the issues related to these ordinances to a vote of the people of the City of Menominee, Doster said.

“Apparently, not everyone agrees that people can decide for themselves,” he said.

The marijuana cases in Menominee started in 2021 when the city picked a rubric for allowing four licenses. When they awarded the licenses, the parties that didn’t receive a license sued. The city won that lawsuit in May.

However, those parties still received licenses. The city council voted to consider a settlement earlier in March before the initial lawsuit concluded.

After the initial lawsuit and the settlement were over, a ballot committee circulated a referendum petition this summer. The petition received enough signatures to get a question on the November ballot, asking Menominee city residents to decide how many marijuana licenses they want.

The city council then proposed an edit to its new marijuana ordinance, adding a $15,000 appropriation for the police department and taking out language relating to penalties and enforcement. The newly proposed ordinance passed, replacing the one made two months earlier.

Two lawsuits — one state and one federal — were filed in court in August by The Fire Station, Rize and the ballot committee that circulated the petition.

James Martone, representing The Fire Station, requested to deny the intervener to come into the case, suggesting it would be redundant.

“They just want to argue exactly what the city is going to argue,” he said.

The city would argue whether or not the council conformed with the Open Meetings Act when passing the third ordinance that canceled the ballot referendum, according to Martone.

The Menominee city attorney identified that he would adequately and fully represent the city’s interests, Martone said.

The city was not at the hearing.

The city attorney was never served a copy of the original motion to intervene, Martone said.

“There’s a little disingenuousness to say the city isn’t going to act properly when it wasn’t even made aware of these matters to begin with,” he said.

Palacios addressed the question of the city not being served a copy of the motion.

“The motion was served upon parties that had appeared in the litigation,” she said. “The city, even as of today, has not appeared in this litigation with any representation.”

Doster corrected Palacios’ statements twice.

Palacios said their group was formed before Aug. 4, but Doster said their paperwork said Aug. 4.

Palacios also said this was the group’s first public action. Still, Doster said he thought he read a statement where Joni Moore, owner and president of OI Holdings, also treasurer of the Committee for Economic Development, indicated that they supported the ordinances before the city council in August and in July.

The information was conflicting, Doster said.

“I just heard counsel for the proposed intervener say this is their first official action, so one of those statements isn’t correct,” Doster said.

The city would adequately represent the intervening party in the lawsuit and whatever counsel they choose to represent them, Barglind said.

Barglind accepted the plaintiff’s arguments but also said she had been liberal in the past in granting intervening motions.

“In this case, I think there’s a distinct difference in that this is being brought by the ballot question committee, and the issues in the complaint are really to do with the Open Meetings Act violation and the requests for injunction that are related to that,” she said.

The arguments made by the intervening party were speculative and sufficiently unrelated at this point Barglind said.

She denied the request for intervention.

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