Maine fights to keep medical cannabis residency rule

A top regulator and industry group are fighting to keep Maine’s residency requirement for medical cannabis business owners.

Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of the state’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services, and the United Cannabis Patients and Caregivers of Maine filed briefs with a federal appellate court seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that residency requirements violate the U.S. Constitution.

Residency requirements are being challenged in a number of courts across the country, but this is the first to reach federal appellate courts, according to Law360, and thus could have major implications for marijuana licensing.

However, circuit courts also can reach different decisions about similar cases depending on the facts of a case.

In Maine, New York-based multistate operator Acreage Holdings wants to gain complete control of Wellness Connection of Maine, which operates four of the eight licensed MMJ dispensaries in the state.

Wellness Connection, which already has ties to an Acreage affiliate, sued the state over the residency requirement and won the lower court battle.

Wellness Connection also sued the state regarding a residency requirement for recreational licenses.

The state attorney general’s office decided it likely wouldn’t be able to win and abandoned plans to enforce the provision.

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Figueroa’s brief with the Boston-based 1st Circuit Court of Appeals argued that a dormant constitutional clause limiting states’ power over interstate commerce can’t be the basis for shooting down a residency requirement because there is no interstate commerce for marijuana.

“Because Congress has effectively eliminated all legal interstate commerce markets in marijuana pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it has granted states authority to regulate residency restrictions in intrastate marijuana markets however the states see fit,” the state wrote in its brief filed Monday.