A business owner who sought to open a marijuana business has headed to court over Gloucester's denial of a host community agreement. 

Hooligans Enterprises LLC, a corporation formed by Mark Guinane of Manchester, had sought to open a retail marijuana business at the Gloucester Crossing shopping center. 

Guinane first filed a preliminary application with the state's Cannabis Control Commission in 2018. City officials said at the time that they wouldn't consider a host community agreement, or HCA, until after Guinane found a location and held a community forum. 

In their complaint filed in Salem Superior Court last week, Guinane's lawyer says Hooligans met all of the requirements laid out under the law and by the city, submitting a 120-page application in March, holding a community forum in May (after being forced by the pandemic to reschedule it from March), and following up on the city's requests for additional information regarding traffic, security and financing. 

On Oct. 26, in a letter from city attorney Charles "Chip" Payson, Guinane learned that the city had denied a request to enter into an HCA "on any terms."

No reason was given, but Payson, in his letter informing Guinane of the denial, pointed to a Superior Court ruling in a similar challenge by Mederi Inc., a business seeking an HCA to open in Salem. 

That ruling concluded that local communities were in the best position to determine the potential impact on a community in deciding whether to enter an HCA. 

An appeal of the Mederi decision is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Judicial Court in February. Lawyers for Mederi argue that the city is overstepping its authority and that it should be up to the Cannabis Control Commission to determine whether it receives a license. 

Shawn McCormack, a lawyer with Davis, Malm and D'Agostine, who is representing Guinane and Hooligans, makes a similar argument in his complaint, arguing that Gloucester is overstepping the law and its authority. 

McCormack said the issue is still not settled law. "I don't think it's clear that the enabling statute intended to give cities unfettered discretion to be the gatekeeper as to who can operate a retail establishment," he said. 

McCormack also argues that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, noting that Hooligan;s complied with all of the city's requirements for traffic and security plans, and submitted documentation that it had adequate financial resources. 

And, if the denial had something to do with what was presented at the community forum, McCormack argued, that's unfair, given that other applicants have been granted an HCA prior to a community forum. That amounts to holding Guinane and Hooligans to a different standard, he wrote in his pleadings. 

Neither Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken nor Payson responded to messages seeking comment Tuesday. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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