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Business and Economy

Maine Court Hears Arguments On Residency Requirement For Recreational Marijuana Businesses

David Sharp
AP file
Buyers are let in to purchase cannabis products at Theory Wellness on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in South Portland, Maine.

The Mills administration on Thursday defended its decision to drop enforcement of a residency requirement for recreational marijuana business owners. It acted in the face of a lawsuit.

Medical marijuana businesses wanted the Maine Supreme Court to order it be enforced. They fear without it, they could be driven out of business by big, out-of-state competitors.

The Mills administration decided against enforcing the requirement after a federal court case in Portland and an attorney general's opinion that it was likely unconstitutional.

Attorney James Monteleone, representing the medical marijuana business, argued that was a judgment the courts should make.

"Maine's constitution, and this court's prior holdings, require that the judicial branch, not the executive branch, determine the legality of mandatory legislative enactments," he said. "If the executive branch can determine for itself what is or is not constitutional, then there is a slippery slope there where it can wholly disregard the intent, the will of the people, acting through the Legislature."

But Assistant Attorney General Paul Suitter told the justices the administration was being prudent.

"Executive officers swear an oath to uphold the Maine and U.S. constitutions. Here, in the face of a federal lawsuit, the department consulted with the Office of Attorney General, and it was advised Maine's adult-use residency requirement is subject to significant constitutional challenges and is not likely to withstand such challenges," he said.

The justices took the matter under advisement. A ruling is likely later this spring.