Judge shoots down Maine’s medical marijuana residency rule

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Maine’s largest medical marijuana operator prevailed in its challenge of the state’s residency requirement.

A federal judge this week ruled that it’s unconstitutional for Maine regulators to exclude out-of-state companies from operating medical cannabis dispensaries in the state.

Wellness Connection of Maine, which operates four of the eight dispensaries in the state, and its parent company, High Street Capital Partners, sued the state in December over the issue.

The state already had backed off a similar residency requirement in the recreational marijuana program after Wellness Connection sued.

This week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, unless appealed, paves the way for out-of-state investors to pursue both medical and recreational marijuana retail licenses in Maine without fear their applications will be rejected by the state based on residency.

Residency requirements have been challenged in other states with mixed results.

A federal judge in Missouri recently shot down that state’s residency requirement, while a federal judge in Oklahoma did the opposite.

Advocates in general push for residency licensing requirements in efforts to protect homegrown businesses.

Wellness Connection currently is owned by three Maine residents, according to the lawsuit, but High Street, which is affiliated with New York-based Acreage Holdings, has said it wants to purchase all the equity in the company.