July 19 2018 10:34 AM

Plaintiffs drop action without explanation


Let Lansing Vote abruptly dropped its lawsuit against City Clerk Chris Swope last week, effectively halting a year-long case that sought to revamp the state capital’s marijuana market and force city officials to revisit rules that regulate the industry.

Both parties agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled on the same claim.

“It’s over and done with,” City Attorney Jim Smiertka said about the suit. “It’s been a long haul.

“But,” Smiertka added, “this whole marijuana issue is not resolved. There has been a lot of litigation, and that’s going to continue. This was a major case, and there was a lot of uncertainty to the process. Now there’s a clear path forward. I’d say the uncertainties are removed.”

The hearing in Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo’s courtroom on July 18, which lasted only minutes, was initially slated to generate a possible ruling after Let Lansing Vote moved for a summary judgment. Those hopes, however, were quickly abandoned without much explanation. Attorneys largely kept their lips sealed.

“I can’t say a thing,” said Let Lansing Vote attorney James Giddings. “My client is under a situation.”

Let Lansing Vote, a state-registered ballot committee representing an unnamed number of would-be marijuana dispensaries, last year filed the lawsuit in an attempt to nullify the city’s ordinance regulating medical marijuana, which includes a limit of 25 dispensary licenses. The litigation boiled down to a claim that Swope illegally tossed petitions that would have overturned the local law.

Behind the suit, though, was the contention that the limit on dispensaries tilted the market in favor of big-money interests.

Some, including Mayor Andy Schor, contended Let Lansing Vote’s success in the courtroom ultimately would have eroded the foundation of the entire marijuana market. A revocation of the ordinance would have forced all dispensaries, growing facilities and others to close in the absence of a law that guides their operation, he said.

Others contended an emergency ordinance could have been installed to prevent the market’s collapse, but speculation over the future of the industry — at least for now — has reached a simmer. Guidelines for regulating the city’s medical marijuana market are spelled out in the ordinance and Let Lansing Vote has raised its white flag.

Giddings and James Adkins, another attorney for the suit’s multiple plaintiffs, declined to elaborate further. .

Smiertka said he didn’t “get into the woods” when he heard about the motion to withdraw the case: He was just pleased the lawsuit was dropped. Lansing’s chief deputy city attorney, Joseph Abood, emphasized the dismissal did not include a settlement.

“They just withdrew it, so that’s great,” Smiertka added.

Another Let Lansing Vote attorney, Bob Baldori, didn’t return a call for comment. Marijuana advocate arren Osmar — previously labeled as a “representative” for Let Lansing Vote — didn’t respond to multiple messages over the past two weeks. Schor also provided little insight into what prompted the sudden dismissal.

“We’re going to continue to follow the ordinance as passed last year, and we hope to issue the 20 dispensary licenses very soon” that the new law permits in the first wave, Schor added. “It’s all at the clerk’s discretion from here. We’re making sure we’re running through all the processes in accordance with the existing ordinance and our departments.”