Calvin Johnson wins preliminary approval for medical pot shop

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Former Lion Calvin Johnson, here at a Pistons-Cavaliers game at Little Caesars Arena, is trying to get prequalification approvals for a medical marijuana provisioning center.

Lansing — Former Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson Jr. is one step closer to getting into the medical marijuana business with plans for facilities across the state.

The Michigan Medical Marihuana board on Thursday approved a pre-qualification license application for Michigan Community Collective LLC, a provisioning center dispensary for which Calvin and his wife Brittney Johnson were listed as applicants.

The pre-qualification approval from the board opens the door for the former Pro Bowl wide receiver to pursue state operating licenses for medical marijuana cultivation, processing and provisioning centers across the state under the brand name Primitive, said Johnson's lawyer, Michael Stein. 

Stein declined to say where each of the facilities would be located, but he said Johnson's outfit would have an "extremely large presence in Michigan" and could run some locations as joint ventures. 

"He’s always been a philanthropic individual," Stein said. "He’s always been a caring and compassionate individual. He saw this as an industry that was blooming in Michigan that was a way to help individuals and a way to help the community.”

Johnson maintains a home in Metro Detroit, Stein said. 

Johnson and Robert Anderson Sims Jr., also a former Lions player, were denied four applications for pre-qualification in early December based on “integrity” issues. The licenses had been for facilities for growing, processing and selling medical marijuana.

The board unanimously approved Johnson's new application Thursday without debate. 

Appeal hearings on three of the earlier denials are scheduled for April 11, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Johnson and Sims withdrew one of their appeals. 

The appeals could become "moot" depending on what types of licensing Johnson is able to obtain before the hearing date, Stein said. 

In voting to deny his initial application in December, medical marijuana licensing board member Don Bailey said Johnson had minor traffic violations from nine and four years ago for which warrants had been issued. He also cited "concerning" issues for Sims and a potential violation of the 2008 law for another person listed on the application.

Stein said the traffic violations uncovered during a voluntary background check were resolved within 24 hours, and that resolution was clarified in the most recent application.  

"I think he just eliminated any doubt or questions with the facts," said Johnson spokesman John Truscott.

Among the dozens of operations that received pre-qualification approvals Thursday were three for Silverback Investments III, LLC, which listed  former Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca as an applicant.

As a prosecutor in 2004 and 2008, Gorcyca warned against initiatives to legalize marijuana. In 2008, ahead of the November ballot proposal that legalized medical marijuana, Gorcyca urged residents to vote no on Proposal 1, noting that the ballot language "is vague, presents loopholes and will result in dangerous consequences for our children."

On Thursday,Gorcyca declined to comment on the applications.

Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.

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