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Wednesday, September 14,2011

Pay Back

Dispensary owners consider filing suit against the city for not refunding licensing fees for opening a business

by Andy Balaskovitz

Whenever my Grandpa Joe felt he was owed something, he wouldn’t be shy in telling those indebted to him: “Cough up, deadbeat.”


A group of former medical marijuana dispensary owners, joined by a Lansing-area attorney, is saying the same thing to the city of Lansing. The business owners want refunds for the fees they paid the city — at least $1,000 for each dispensary — as required by an ordinance adopted on June 27. However, the city has said it will not issue medical marijuana dispensary licenses anymore, in light of a recent Court of Appeals ruling.


Since the state Appeals Court ruled patient-to-patient medical marijuana sales are illegal nearly two months after city adopted its ordinance — and because the city hadn’t issued one license in that time — at least some dispensary owners feel the money should be refunded.


“There’s no way for (dispensary owners) now to actually apply or for the application to go forward,” said Mike O’Briant, an Okemos attorney who represents the Greater Lansing Medical Marijuana Business Association.


“We’re doing anything we can do to help get it back.”


MLive.com first reported last week that the city cashed a check from Capital City Caregivers, 2208 E. Michigan Ave. (which has since closed), for $1,375 after the Court of Appeals ruling.


Whether the city will change course and refund applicants is undecided, said Lansing City Attorney Brig Smith. “This matter is currently under review with the Clerk. No decisions have yet been made on it,” he said in an e-mail.


City Clerk Chris Swope said Monday: “I imagine all have been deposited,” referring to checks, cash and money orders coming in from dispensary applicants. Swope told the Lansing State Journal shortly after the ruling that the city had received 48 applications at the time of the ruling. That means the city has taken in at least $48,000 in license fees for businesses it has decided not to license.


O’Briant said a suit has not yet been filed, pending a meeting with the City Attorney’s Office. “Before we file suit, we’d like to talk to them and see if there’s any chance of (the city) paying up.”

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