Federal judge shoots down Missouri’s medical marijuana residency rule

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A federal judge in Missouri, as expected, struck down the state’s residency requirement for medical marijuana businesses, opening the fast-growing market to out-of-state operators.

Judge Nanette Laughrey reportedly made the final ruling from the bench after only a seven-minute video conference, according to the Springfield News-Leader and other media.

But the permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing the residency requirement wasn’t a surprise because Laughrey had issued a similar preliminary injunction in June.

In the June order, she wrote that the state had failed to meet the legal burden of showing how the residency requirement would achieve its articulated goal of preventing marijuana from being trafficked out of state.

The Missouri residency rule required that medical marijuana businesses be at least 51% owned by state residents. It had defined residents as those who had lived in Missouri for at least one year.

A day after Laughrey’s ruling last week, New York-based Columbia Care announced the grand opening of its first MMJ dispensary in Missouri under its Cannabist banner.

Legal medical marijuana sales launched in Missouri in October 2020 and brought in a cumulative $136 million as of Oct. 1 this year, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Sales exceeded $20 million a month for the first time in July and are now running at an annual pace of roughly $250 million.