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Court: Maine marijuana dispensary owners don't need to be residents

James MacWilliams
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Dec. 13, 2017, file photo, James MacWilliams prunes a marijuana plant that he is growing indoors in Portland, Maine.

A Maine law requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to be owned by Maine residents has been struck down by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision upholds a lower court ruling that found Maine's residency requirement violates the U.S. Constitution by restricting interstate commerce.

Under Maine's Medical Marijuana Act, a dispensary cannot be licensed to sell medical marijuana unless all the officers or directors are residents of Maine. Two years ago, the state's largest cannabis company challenged that requirement. Wellness Connection and its parent company said it violates the Constitution’s “dormant commerce clause,” which prohibits states from passing laws that discriminate against or excessively burden interstate commerce.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen agreed, noting that Maine allows qualified nonresidents to purchase medical marijuana.

The state and a coalition of medical marijuana caregivers appealed. And this week the First Circuit ruled against them.

Two of the three judges on the panel rejected their arguments that absent legalization at the federal level, marijuana cannot be sold across state lines. Writing for the majority, Chief Judge David Barron said that the "market is so robust that absent the Medical Marijuana Act's residency requirement, it would be likely to attract entrants far and wide."