- Steve Neavling
Michigan’s largest tobacco retailer tried to create a mammoth marijuana dispensary chain, but the state blocked the move, citing the owner’s “moral character.”
Troy-based Wild Bill’s Tobacco filed applications for 38 licenses to open cannabis dispensaries in Adrian, Bangor, Battle Creek, Bay City, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Sturgis and Walled Lake, Crain’s Detroit Business first reported. The company also applied to launch growing operations in Bangor and Lansing.
Wild Bill’s co-owner Mazin Samona and his in-house attorney Paul Weisberger formed Oasis LLC in hopes of opening a large marijuana dispensary chain.
The now-defunct Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation board denied their applications after the "consideration of the integrity, moral character and reputation of the applicant" and because Samona’s criminal history was not disclosed.
Samona’s rap sheet included convictions of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Detroit in 1981, several counts of assault by physical menace involving prostitutes in New Jersey in 1998, and falsifying a birth certificate using a fictitious name to obtain a driver’s license, Crain’s reported, citing state records.
However, a representative for Samona tells Metro Times that Samona pled guilty to one count of disorderly person, and some of those cases have been expunged.
The representative says Medical Marijuana Regulation board approved applications for other co-owners of Wild Bill's, and Oasis appealed the denial to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The judge ruled in favor of Oasis, stating the group "is clearly and convincingly qualified and suitable for licensing" on the grounds the offenses were many years ago and Samona has operated Wild Bill’s with no issues for more than 15 years.
The pair paid $228,000 in nonrefundable fees for the applications.
Updated Friday, Sept. 13: This story was updated with additional information from Samona's representative.
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