Buds produced by Evergreen Cannabis Company, a growroom and caregiver service based in Cumberland, sit on a Portland windowsill. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Medical marijuana facility owners argued to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday that they want residency requirements in place to discourage out-of-state competitors.

The legal battle over residency requirements for the sale of adult-use marijuana has been drawn out over the past year, with medical marijuana sellers advocating for restrictions on out-of-state providers to prevent smaller businesses being driven out of the market.

The residency requirement has not been enforced since last May, when Wellness Connection — a chain of Maine-based medical marijuana dispensaries that is 49 percent owned by a Delaware investor — challenged that it was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which bars overly restrictive commercial regulations between states.

Previous iterations of residency requirements stated that any marijuana business owner or operator would have to live in Maine and could report that they filed at least four years of taxes within the state.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey stated that his opinion was that the requirement would face significant constitutional challenges, and was not likely to hold up in court.

In August of last year, a lawsuit filed by United Cannabis Patients and Caregivers of Maine in favor of residency requirements was dismissed by the Maine Superior Court.

In response to the lawsuit, Superior Court Justice William Stokes said that generalized interest in an issue is not enough to support a ruling, and that generalized harm claims are “speculative at best”, the Press Herald reported.

United Cannabis appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to review the lawsuit, and argued on Thursday that the lack of enforcement of residency requirements would present unfair competition for local small-business owners. Citing previous arguments, United Cannabis said that residency requirements were designed to protect local business owners, and that the “opinion of the attorney general is just that — an opinion”.

A response to Thursday’s arguments is expected later this spring.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.