City could get sued by marijuana business applicant

This rendering shows what Robert McCurren and is partners had hoped to do to the Mitchell Street News location.

CADILLAC — As Cadillac moves closer toward having operational marijuana retail stores, one marijuana business owner wants the process re-evaluated.

"There were some serious flaws in the process that we've attempted to bring up to the city with little or no cooperation," said Robert McCurren, a physician who previously worked in the area, and who applied to open a marijuana retail store (either recreational or medical) at the Mitchell Street News location.

McCurren's team recently sent a "preservation of documents" request to the city "to ensure that we would be able to take legal action, if that was required. We've gotten a few documents back, but not nearly enough to really be able to have transparency into how the scoring process was done."

Last year when city council approved marijuana business ordinances, council members elected to award just four licenses to retail shops; two for recreational and two for medical. There were 14 applications total from nine different companies.

McCurren didn't get any of the licenses; now he's asking the city to rectify what he describes as a flawed process.

McCurren has previously expressed disagreement with some of the rules the city laid out. The original zoning amendment that would allow for marijuana businesses in Cadillac initially excluded McCurren's planned property, though city council tweaked the boundaries after McCurren asked. McCurren has also been critical of the city's prohibition against medical and recreational marijuana shops occupying the same space.

In September, the committee tasked with scoring and selecting marijuana business applicants awarded provisional recreational licenses to Attitude Wellness (also known as Lume Cannabis) and Fresh Coast Provisioning. Cresco Labs and Kzoo Retailers (also known as KKind) received provisional medical licenses.

McCurren says the process by which the committee scored and selected the businesses was unfair. Though he tried to get on a subsequent city council agenda to address his concerns, he was limited to public comment.

McCurren said he and his partners understand that it sounds like they are only griping because they didn't get the license.

"If it was a fair, transparent and unbiased process, we would have already moved on to the next place," McCurren said, noting that his business is in "build-out" in Big Rapids and Manistee.

McCurren criticized City Manager Marcus Peccia for not recusing himself completely from the scoring process. Peccia did not score or vote on Cresco Labs due to a prior, personal relationship with a Cresco Labs employee; however, he did score other applicants. McCurren thinks Peccia should have recused himself entirely; Peccia did not respond to a request for comment on that matter.

McCurren also criticized the city for not hiring a consultant to evaluate the applications; the scoring process the committee described in an open meeting was too subjective, McCurren said.

Peccia had commented that McCurren's proposed store, which would have been called Northern Trellis, was too close to a residential area.

McCurren said that's unfair; his project met all of the zoning requirements.

"If there are other requirements those should be clearly disclosed," McCurren said. "Maybe we would have chosen a different location," if it had been obvious they would be scored poorly due to proximity to a residential area.

The process, according to McCurren, was too subjective. If it was going to be as subjective as it was, "why have a scoring system at all?"

"If that's going to be the case, then just say that up front so people don't spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars locking a property and doing all the work that's required to put applications together, and then find out that the criteria are different than what they laid them out to be," McCurren said.

Marijuana business applicants paid $5,000 non-refundable application fee to the city.

For the city's part, City Manager Marcus Peccia said the city followed the rules.

"The City of Cadillac worked diligently to establish a fair, transparent process for selecting medical marihuana facilities and adult-use marihuana establishments to operate in the City. The City's competitive process fully complies with Michigan law," Peccia said in an email to the Cadillac News.

McCurren said he has asked the city to review and discuss revisions to the process; replace Peccia on the selection committee; create a transparent and uniform scoring process and rescore the applications.

Peccia told the newspaper they can't do that.

"Having completed the competitive process, neither the Selection Committee nor the City Council has the authority to re-score the applications," Pecca said. "However, the City will continue to discuss this emerging industry and land use to ensure that the implementation is as smooth as possible, and the City will continue to evaluate its processes in the future."

A lawsuit wouldn't be McCurren's first choice.

"They can open it up for more licenses and then do an objective process," McCurren said. "But leaving it as it as it is right now is not acceptable in our opinion, and we're prepared to take action to try to address that." 

Cadillac News