Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – July 28, 2023

  1. Detroit City Council Approves Amendment that Gives Cannabis Businesses More Options on Where to Locate

The zoning amendment shrinks the distance various cannabis businesses must be located from “controlled uses” (such as liquor stores) from 1,000 feet to 750 feet. It also allows cannabis businesses to be located 500 feet from each other—previously they were required to be 1,000 feet apart. It’s still uncertain when the amendment will take effect.

Why it Matters: The amendment passed in advance of Detroit accepting a new round of applications for cannabis dispensaries, micro businesses, and consumption lounges.


  1. Business Education Series – Setting Meaningful Goals and Time Blocking for Success

On August 22, 2023, gain valuable knowledge and skills to set meaningful goals, establish priorities, and effectively manage their time through the practice of time blocking.

Why it Matters: Participants will learn practical strategies and techniques to enhance their goal-setting abilities, develop a clear sense of direction, and optimize their productivity. Learn more.


  1. CRA Publishes June 2023 Data, Average Price Decreases Slightly

Per data from the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, the average retail price for adult-use sale of an ounce of cannabis is $89.27, a small decrease from $90.64 in May. This is still a large decrease from the average price in June 2022, when it was $122.43.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.


  1. Avoiding a Strike, UPS and Teamsters Settle Labor Negotiations

Earlier this week, UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Teamsters) reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement, avoiding a possible strike when the current contract would have expired August 1, 2023.

Why it Matters: It was estimated that the potential UPS strike could have cost the US economy  more than $7 billion, with $4 billion in losses for consumers and small businesses.


  1. Client Alert: PCORI Fees Due by July 31, 2023!

In Notice 2022-59 the Internal Revenue Service set forth the PCORI amount imposed on insured and self-funded health plans for policy and plan years that end on or after October 1, 2022, and before October 1, 2023.

Why it Matters: Notice 2022-59 sets the adjusted applicable dollar amount used to calculate the fee at $3.00. Specifically, this fee is imposed per average number of covered lives for plan years that end on or after October 1, 2022, and before October 1, 2023. For self-funded plans, the average number of covered lives is calculated by one of three methods: (1) the actual count method; (2) the snapshot method; or (3) the Form 5500 method. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Dave Houston
Employee Benefits | Bob Burgee
Employee Benefits | Sharon Goldzweig

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – June 30, 2023

  1. Michigan’s New Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect June 30

In an effort to mitigate the risks associated with distracted driving, Michigan recently enacted legislation meant to deter and punish instances of distracted driving. Michigan is the 26th state in the United States to pass a hands-free driving law, signifying the growing national consensus around the importance of focused driving.

Why it Matters: The new law, which takes effect June 30, 2023, makes holding and using a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle illegal. Learn more about the new law from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.


  1. Gain Peace of Mind Through Life’s Toughest Challenges

Family law involves deeply personal and often emotional issues – that can be as complicated as they are sensitive. A strong family law attorney understands the judicial processes and procedures, while also handling your case with care and compassion.

Why it Matters: Fraser Trebilcock attorney Paula C. Spicer has over a decade of experience assisting clients in family law matters. Paula compassionately and efficiently works with clients to help them understand their options and navigate the often challenging and emotional situations. Learn more how she may be able to assist.


  1. 6th Circuit Decision Clarifies Rights of Schools to Discipline Students for Off-Campus Speech and Conduct

In a case that involved a student creating a fake Instagram account impersonating a teacher, and the student being suspended by his school, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit clarified that schools can regulate student speech—even off-campus speech—that causes or can reasonably be forecast to cause substantial disruption to the educational environment.

Why it Matters: As this case (Kutchinski v Freeland Community School District) demonstrates, off-campus speech can easily make its way onto school grounds given the widespread use of social networks and other digital means of communication by students. While every case of discipline for off-campus speech must be evaluated pursuant to its own unique facts and circumstances, the Sixth Circuit affirmed a school’s rights to take disciplinary action under appropriate circumstances.


  1. Governor Whitmer Announces New Support Hubs for Small Businesses

On June 27, Governor Whitmer, along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, announced a new program aimed at supporting small businesses in the state by providing additional resources to them.

Why it Matters: The program is designed to allocate new and improved resources to small businesses through funding, direct support, and programming. Learn more about the new program.


  1. City of Detroit Approves Second Round of Recreational Cannabis Applications

On June 27, the Detroit City Council approved a second of three rounds of recreational cannabis applications to open up for submission.

Why it Matters: The second round will see a maximum of 50 applications for cannabis operations, broken down into the following categories: 15 adult-use retailer licenses, 15 adult-use equity retailer licenses, five microbusiness licenses, five microbusiness equity licenses, five designated consumption establishment licenses, and five designated consumption establishment equity licenses.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Insurance Law | Gary Rogers
Family Law | Paula Spicer
Business & Tax | Ed Castellani
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – June 16, 2023

  1. Changes to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

Employers should be aware of recent actions taken by the Michigan legislature with respect to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). Governor Whitmer recently signed into law an amendment that extends the ELCRA’s prohibitions against discrimination to individuals who have terminated a pregnancy. On June 8, 2023, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to pass, which amends the definition of race within ELCRA to ban discrimination based on hair and other traits associated with racial or ethnic identity. Governor Whitmer is expected to sign this bill into law.

Why it Matters: Lawmakers who introduced the bills argue that the legislation will increase access to support services for domestic and sexual violence victims, and also will protect their privacy and shielding them from additional harassment.


  1. CRA Publishes May 2023 Data, Average Price Hovers

Per data released by the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, the average retail price for adult-use sales of an ounce of cannabis is $90.64, a small increase from $87.76 in April. This is still a large decrease from May 2022, where the average price was $130.62.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.


  1. Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Obtains Dismissal for Firm Client

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Jared Roberts recently obtained a dismissal in a circuit court case brought against a brokerage and salesperson.

Why it Matters: In this case, which involved interpretation of transaction documents, a county “Time of Sale” well and septic inspection ordinance and water quality issues, Mr. Roberts obtained dismissal in the first responsive document. Learn more about their practice and how they may be able to assist.


  1. Detroit Mayor Unveils Land Value Tax Plan

At the Mackinac Policy Conference in May, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced a proposal, called the Land Value Tax Plan, that if passed, would change property taxes while encouraging economic growth across Detroit.

Why it Matters: According to the plan laid out online, if enacted, would replace certain tax rates for homes and property structures with a higher rate of tax on land, with the purpose of targeting unused, unproductive, or vacant land while providing benefits to homeowners and businesses.


  1. CRA Revokes License for Marijuana Business for Illicit Products

The Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency announced on June 15 that it was revoking the license for marijuana business Candid Labs, which operates as Layercake Farms 2, after they were found to have illicit and unlicensed marijuana, in addition to other license violations including an inoperable video surveillance system.

Why it Matters: A requirement that every marijuana business must adhere to is properly working video surveillance system that is in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at all licensee locations. Failure to comply will result in fines, possible license suspension and/or license being revoked. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Dave Houston
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Real Estate | Jared Roberts

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – October 7, 2022

  1. Michigan Legislature Allocates $846 Million for Economic Development Projects

Michigan legislators recently approved $846.1 million to support economic developments projects in the state. The funding will be administered through the state’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) fund.

Why it Matters: As the economy slows, these funds will inject a needed boost for business and entrepreneurship in Michigan. In 2021, $1 billion in SOAR funds were distributed to aid corporations planning major projects.


  1. Lawsuit Emerges as City of Detroit’s Adult-Use Marijuana Ordinance is Challenged Again

A new lawsuit challenging the City of Detroit’s adult-use marijuana ordinance was filed recently in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan alleging that the revised ordinance the Detroit City Council passed still has the same issues as the original ordinance that led to multiple lawsuits.

Why it Matters: In August, a judge threw out two lawsuits that claimed the revised ordinance gave an unfair advantage to certain residents and that the new law would signal the end for existing medical marijuana facilities already in the area. Fraser Trebilcock cannabis attorneys will continue to monitor the situation for updates.


  1. New Legislation Will Allow Preprocessing of Absentee Ballots

A package of bills recently passed by the Michigan legislature with bipartisan support would allow local clerks two days to preprocess absentee ballots prior to election day. Additionally, enhanced security measures will go into effect, such as routinely removing deceased voters from the Qualified Voter File, and requiring a chain of custody logs for ballots placed in drop boxes. The recent changes are effective now, leading up to the November election.

Why it Matters: The legislation before us would remove the sunset to allow clerks to again use this tool to efficiently and securely process absentee ballots,” said Senate Elections Chair Committee Chair Ruth Johnson.


  1. New Scholarship Program Aimed at Helping Michigan’s Middle Class

The new Michigan Achievement Scholarship program will help Michigan families reduce the costs of attending various post-high school education programs. Public university students who are selected will receive up to $5,500 a year for five years, independent university students will be able to get up to $4,000 a year for five years, private trade school students $2,000 a year for two years and community college students $2,750 a year for up to three years.

Why it Matters: The Michigan Achievement Scholarship program is projected to double the number of the recipients who receive financial aid through the state’s various programs. And the new program seeks to reduce or eliminate the need for student loans for families across the state.


  1. Importance of Signing an Operating Agreement for Your LLC

It happens more often than individuals think and something small businesses should heed is the need to adopt an operating agreement at the start of your LLC. It may seem like an unnecessary step when you are starting out but waiting until the time is right or until you get big enough can often lead to forgetting about it completely.

Why it Matters: Failure to sign an operating agreement for your LLC may lead to issues for your small business that would otherwise be avoided. Learn more from a Fraser Trebilcock attorney on this topic.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Business & Tax | Klint Kesto
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Election Law | Garett Koger

Citizens for Better Social Equality Ballot Initiative Struck Down by Detroit Election Commission

A ballot initiative aimed at replacing the City of Detroit’s current recreational marijuana ordinance was recently struck down by the Detroit Election Commission after a determination the initiative did not have enough signatures required to secure a ballot spot under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

The group behind the proposed initiative, Citizens for Better Equality, were fighting an uphill battle as the Detroit City Council vehemently opposed the initiative and the City’s Law Department had stated that the group does not have enough valid signatures.

This is the latest development in a turbulent time for the City’s marihuana licensing regime as it has yet to issue licenses to begin allowing retail sales of recreational cannabis. In June, following the City Council’s vote on the revised ordinance to allow adult-use recreational cannabis sales, multiple medical marijuana companies filed suit against the City over the licensing program, claiming that the new law would signal the end for existing medical marijuana facilities already in the area. The companies pointed to a provision in the revised ordinance that prevents existing medical facilities in the area from getting a recreational license until 2027.

Our attorneys are actively monitoring the situation and will provide updates. At Fraser Trebilcock, we have handled multiple lawsuits in the cannabis field and can assist you. Please contact Sean Gallagher or your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Gallagher, SeanSean P. Gallagher is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock with experience in the highly regulated cannabis industry, working with local and state officials to advance client interests and to help mitigate risks involved and increase opportunities. You can reach him at 517.377.0820 or at

The Future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act May be Uncertain… But HIPAA is Here to Stay

While the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and any potential replacement legislation is still in question, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has clarified through its recent actions that the HIPAA privacy, security, and breach notification rules contained at 45 C.F.R. Parts 160 and 164 (the “Administrative Simplification Rules”) are here to stay. Audits initiated by OCR and investigations resulting from reported violations reveal that HIPAA compliance continues to be a governmental priority under the new administration. Indeed, nine representative resolution agreements have been released by HHS thus far in 2017 (the latest being released earlier this week) assessing a range of penalties from $31,000 to $5.5 million for a covered entity’s failure to comply with various aspects of HIPAA (including but not limited to failure to conduct a thorough and accurate risk analysis, failure to have a business associate agreement in place, failure to have comprehensive policies and procedures in place and implemented, and failure to protect protected health information (“PHI”) from improper use and disclosure). Thus, it is as important as ever for employer-sponsored group health plans to ensure that they are complying with HIPAA’s encompassing and technical requirements. As the various resolution agreements detail, failure to do so can have dire financial consequences on the group health plan (and correspondingly on the sponsoring employer).

HIPAA’s Administrative Simplification Rules require covered entities and their business associates to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI from improper use and disclosure. A group health plan falls within the definition of “covered entity.” Third parties who create, receive, maintain and/or transmit PHI for or on behalf of a covered entity are generally considered “business associates.” See 45 C.F.R. 160.103. Complying with HIPAA’s Administrative Simplification Rules can be a daunting task for group health plans and the employers sponsoring them. For example, administratively, group health plans are required to create, maintain, implement, and periodically review and update several written documents. The following provides a “checklist” approach of some important documents that group health plans need to have in place in order to comply with the Administrative Simplification Rules. Please keep in mind, however, that merely having the documents in place is insufficient from a HIPAA compliance standpoint; group health plans (and plan sponsors) also need to ensure that they are actually implementing, adhering to, and periodically reviewing the substance of the documents. Thus, it is imperative for employer-sponsored group health plans to continually evaluate their HIPAA compliance position with experienced HIPAA legal counsel. Even minor deficiencies can result in substantial penalties.

1. Business Associate Agreements

A covered entity may permit a business associate to create, receive, maintain or transmit PHI on its behalf only after it obtains satisfactory assurances in the form of a written business associate contract that the business associate will appropriately safeguard the information. See 45 C.F.R. sections 164.502, 164.504, and 164.314. A business associate agreement is a cornerstone HIPAA requirement that is commanding more and more scrutiny by the government.

For example, a resolution agreement released on April 20, 2017, demonstrated that a covered entity’s failure to have a business associate agreement in place with a third party vendor that had access to the covered entity’s PHI was a $31,000 mistake.  Interestingly, the compliance review of the covered entity was initiated by OCR following OCR’s investigation of the business associate. The two-year corrective action plan associated with the $31,000 fine required, among other things, that the covered entity revise its HIPAA policies and procedures to require: (1) the designation of one or more individual(s) who are responsible for ensuring that the covered entity enters into a business associate agreement with each of its business associates prior to disclosing PHI to the applicable business associate; (2) the creation of a standard template business associate agreement; (3) a process for assessing current and future business relationships to determine whether each relationship is with a “business associate;” (4) a process for negotiating and entering into business associate agreements with business associates prior to disclosing PHI to the business associate; (5) a process for maintaining documentation of business associate agreements for at least six years beyond the date of when the business associate relationship is terminated; and (6) a process to limit disclosures of PHI to business associates to the minimum necessary amount of PHI that is reasonably necessary for business associates to perform their duties.

The government’s demand for the creation of a standard template business associate agreement is of particular note for employers sponsoring group health plans for some important reasons. First, HIPAA’s Administrative Simplification Rules contain detailed provisions that must be included in a business associate agreement; variations from these strict regulatory requirements can make the agreement noncompliant. If a group health plan has a template business associate agreement in place prepared by experienced HIPAA legal counsel, it can be assured that the agreement is HIPAA compliant. When the document has been prepared by another party (such as the business associate), the group health plan should have the agreement carefully reviewed to ensure each of the regulatory provisions are correctly stated. Second, like any contract, business associate agreements can be drafted in a one-sided manner. A group health plan will want to have its standard business associate agreement prepared to adequately address, among other items, reporting time limits and indemnification requirements in the group health plan’s favor. While the HIPAA Administrative Simplification Rules set forth minimum requirements, keep in mind that additional information can be included within the agreement. Thus, each contract should be reviewed to ensure that the additional provisions are in fact desirable to be included from the group health plan’s perspective.

2. Security Policies and Procedures

A covered entity is required to implement reasonable and appropriate written policies and procedures to comply with the standards, implementation specifications, and other requirements of the security rules. See 45 C.F.R. 164.316. This requires the covered entity to implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect the confidentiality and integrity of electronic PHI (“EPHI”). Various resolution agreements highlight the need: (1) for comprehensive security policies and procedures; (2) to train workforce members on the policies and procedures; and (3) periodically evaluate the scope of the policies and procedures.

One of the cornerstones of a covered entity’s security policies and procedures is its security management process. This requires the covered entity to: (1) periodically conduct an accurate and thorough risk analysis of potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of EPHI held by the covered entity; (2) implement security measures sufficient to reduce the detected risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level; (3) apply appropriate sanctions against workforce members who fail to comply with the security policies and procedures; and (4) implement procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports.

Indeed, two April 2017 resolution agreements demonstrate the need to conduct a thorough and accurate risk analysis to assess the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of EPHI and to implement security measures sufficient to reduce those risks and vulnerabilities. In an April 24, 2017 resolution agreement, the covered entity’s HIPAA deficiencies resulted in a $2.5 million settlement. A resolution agreement released April 12, 2017 resulted in a $400,000 settlement. Among other things, the corrective action plan in both cases requires the covered entity to conduct and provide the results of a comprehensive risk analysis to HHS. Thereafter, the covered entity is required to review the risk analysis annually (or more frequently, if appropriate) and promptly update the risk analysis in response to environmental or operational changes affecting the security of EPHI. Thus, through its resolution agreements, HHS is emphasizing the fluid need to ensure that electronic systems adequately safeguard EPHI and that covered entities are appropriately minimizing risk.

3. Privacy Policies and Procedures

Pursuant to 45 CFR 164.530, a covered entity is required to implement written policies and procedures with respect to PHI that are designed to comply with the HIPAA privacy rules and breach notification rules. A limited exception to this requirement is available under 45 CFR 164.530(k) for certain fully-insured group health plans that maintain a “hands off” status (i.e., the group health plan does not create or receive PHI except for certain summary health information and/or enrollment/disenrollment information). Among other items, the privacy policies and procedures must address how a covered entity may use and disclose PHI. They also must address an individual’s rights with respect to his or her PHI and which employees will be granted access to PHI. One May 2017 resolution agreement resulted from a covered entity’s improper disclosure of PHI to the media and various public officials without proper authorization. Another May 2017 resolution agreement resulted from a covered entity’s improper disclosure of PHI to his workplace. The corrective action plans associated with the resolution agreements required the covered entity to develop/review, maintain, and revise as necessary written policies and procedures (which relevantly would set forth the permissible uses and disclosure of PHI), to distribute such policies and procedures to the workforce, and to assess, update, and revise, as necessary, the policies and procedures at least annually. Thus, implementation of comprehensive privacy policies and procedures is deemed a necessity by HHS.

4. Notice of Privacy Practices

Pursuant to 45 CFR 164.520, an individual has a right to adequate notice of the uses and disclosures of PHI that may be made by the covered entity and of the individual’s rights and the covered entity’s legal duties with respect to PHI. The notice of privacy practices is essentially a summary of the covered entity’s privacy policies and procedures. The plan sponsor is obligated under the privacy rules to ensure that the notice is prepared and timely and appropriately distributed to plan participants, except in the case of certain fully-insured group health plans that maintain a hands off status, in which case the insurer has the duty. The content and distribution requirements for notices of privacy practices are strict. Thus, it is imperative for plan sponsors to ensure legal compliance.

5. Plan Sponsor Certifications

A group health plan may disclose PHI to the plan sponsor for plan administration functions only after: (1) the plan document has been amended to incorporate various regulatory requirements related to the plan’s use and disclosure of PHI, and (2) the plan sponsor has certified to the plan, in writing, that the plan has been amended and that the plan sponsor agrees to the restrictions contained in the amendment. See 45 C.F.R. 164.504 and 164.314. Plan sponsors must ensure that their plans have been appropriately amended and that proper written certification is in place.

6. Workforce Training

A covered entity is required to provide training to all members of its workforce on its HIPAA policies and procedures, as necessary and appropriate for the members of the workforce to carry out their functions within the covered entity. Various resolution agreements stress the necessity of conducting and documenting comprehensive training. For example, two May 2017 resolution agreements indicate that training must be reviewed at least annually, and, where appropriate, updated to reflect changes in the law, issues discovered during internal or external audits, and other relevant developments. Thus, plan sponsors must continually evaluate the need for workforce training and tailor such training to their internal structure.

These are just some of the written documentation requirements that group health plans must adhere to under HIPAA’s Administrative Simplification Rules. Regulatory provisions must be reviewed in conjunction with the group health plan’s administrative practices when drafting these documents. The resolution agreements released this year reaffirm the notion that employer-sponsored group health plans must evaluate their HIPAA compliance position with experienced HIPAA legal counsel. Deficiencies can result in substantial penalties. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have with respect to your HIPAA compliance endeavors.

Copies of the resolution agreements are available by clicking HERE.

This email serves solely as a general summary of complex proposed legislation and government initiatives.  It does not constitute legal guidance.  Please contact us with any questions related to the Proposed Legislation and what impact finalization might have on your employer-sponsored plans.

Questions? Contact us to learn more.

Elizabeth H. Latchana, Attorney Fraser TrebilcockElizabeth H. Latchana specializes in employee health and welfare benefits. Recognized for her outstanding legal work, in both 2018 and 2015, Beth was selected as “Lawyer of the Year” in Lansing for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law by Best Lawyers, and in 2017 as one of the Top 30 “Women in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Contact her for more information on this reminder or other matters at 517.377.0826 or

Cutting through the clutter

This week marked the official kickoff of the 2012 Presidential Election. From now until August 2012, we will be bombarded with candidates announcing their candidacy, being critical of each others policies and otherwise complicating the issues that are now before Congress.

Continue reading Cutting through the clutter