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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Feb 27, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Groups to advise Michigan agency on regulating marijuana

LANSING (AP) — A state agency is creating four groups to come up with suggestions on regulating marijuana in Michigan.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said one of the panels will represent those already licensed under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act who are interested in entering the adult-use marijuana market.

Another will represent cities and towns that are considering allowing licensed adult-use marijuana facilities in their jurisdictions.

Other groups will be for attorneys representing marijuana establishments who have an interest in the adult-use market, and for individuals or businesses who want to participate in the adult-use market as a future license holder or a consumer.

Those who would like to join one of the groups have until March 4 to send an email expressing interest.

Gay rights activist accused of setting own home on fire

JACKSON (AP) — Michigan police say a transgender, gay rights activist tried to fabricate a hate crime by setting his home on fire, but the man's attorney is questioning the evidence.

Attorney Daniel Barnett said the evidence is circumstantial and doesn't provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Nikki Joly set the August 2017 fire that killed five pets at his home in Jackson.

Joly, 54, was charged last year with first-degree arson. A hearing is scheduled for March 8 in Jackson County Circuit Court, The Detroit News reported.

"We determined it pretty quickly to be an arson," Elmer Hitt, Jackson's director of police and fire services, said Monday.

Hitt declined to provide a potential motive for the arson. Barnett said the lack of motive causes doubt in the prosecutor's case.

A local newspaper selected Joly as Jackson's citizen of the year in 2018. Joly helped open the city's first gay community center, organized its first gay pride festival and helped pass a nondiscrimination ordinance.

3 kids dead, 4 family members hurt in mobile home fire, police say

IMLAY CITY (AP) — Police said three young children have died and four other family members were critically injured following an early morning fire in Lapeer County.

Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike said officers and fire crews were called to the mobile home shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday and found it engulfed in flames.

Pike said a 29-year-old woman was found screaming outside and firefighters got six people, including her 42-year-old husband and their children, out of the home.

Pike said a 3-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 6, died. He said the adults, a baby girl and an 18-month old boy were taken to hospitals.

The cause is under investigation, but Pike said authorities believe the home was having furnace issues before the fire.

Blaze extinguished at suburban Detroit-area plastics plant

AUBURN HILLS (AP) — Firefighters have extinguished a blaze at a suburban Detroit plastics plant that sent thick black smoke billowing into the air and was visible from miles away.

No injuries were reported in the fire Tuesday at U.S. Farathane in Auburn Hills.

Fire officials said the blaze occurred in a storage area behind the company's building and consumed plastic containers holding cardboard.

Company President Andrew Greenlee issued a statement saying the cause of the fire is under investigation and the plant was expected to resume production later Tuesday.

Officer reaches settlement in sexual harassment lawsuit

EATON RAPIDS (AP) — A mid-Michigan police officer has agreed to dismiss sexual harassment claims against her department in exchange for a settlement worth about $362,000.

Lisa Kirby filed a 2017 federal lawsuit alleging that another Eaton Rapids police officer sexually harassed her.

Eaton Rapids City Manager Aaron Desentz told the Lansing State Journal that Kirby and the city settled the lawsuit in January and all claims against the city were dismissed. The agreement includes Kirby being paid $100,000 up front and she agrees to voluntarily resign Oct. 31, 2020.

In 2017, Kirby sued Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department over alleged discriminatory practices and won $65,000 in back pay. Victor Mastromarco Jr., an attorney for Kirby, said the cases show "what kind of problems face female police officers that go into the profession."

Michigan agency offers grants for Iron Belle Trail projects

LANSING (AP) — Michigan officials are taking applications for the fifth round of funding to support work along the Iron Belle Trail.

The Department of Natural Resources said proposals are due March 15 for grants up to $50,000. Recipients will be announced in May.

The trail offers two routes for hiking and bicycling that add up to more than 2,000 miles. Officials say the project is about 70 percent finished.

DNR state trails coordinator Paul Yauk said this year's funding will focus on segments ready to go into construction this year or next, along with project engineering, design and purchase of trail signs.

Partners, communities and eligible nonprofits can apply for grants. A funding match is recommended but not required.

The department has awarded more than $1.4 million for the project since 2015.

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