Maine residency for dispensaries or caregivers
Maine residency for dispensaries or caregivers

You Get One and You Get One - Anyone in America Can Now Apply for a Maine Dispensary or Caregiver License

Maine no longer enforces the residency requirements for dispensaries or caregivers

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Tuesday Dec 6, 2022

maine caregiver and dispensary licenses

The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) announced to the state cannabis sector in a letter dated November 30 that officials would no longer enforce the state's cannabis retailers' and caregivers' residence rules. The action comes in response to a court decision issued in August finding that the state's residency barrier for cannabis business owners is illegal.

The Lawsuit Challenge

Despite the fact that marijuana is illegal at the federal level, Congress has recognized the existence of a market for medicinal cannabis through the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a clause in appropriations legislation that forbids federal law enforcement agencies from devoting resources to the prosecution of state-legal medical cannabis businesses. Congress also ensured that the sector could thrive in some circumstances and be immune from federal criminal enforcement by passing the law in 2014 and adding a few modifications annually.


All medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine were formerly required to be owned by Maine residents, but that rule was invalidated in August 2021 by a federal court. In August this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 to overturn the last residency requirement. The spat continued as the state decided to appeal almost immediately.


All directors or officers of a dispensary registered to sell medicinal cannabis must be Maine residents, according to the former rules governing the state's medical marijuana program. The "Dormant Commerce Clause," which forbids states from drafting a law that inhibits interstate trade, was invoked in 2020 by Wellness Connection, the largest medical marijuana business in Maine, to challenge the residency requirement. Other states that have legalized marijuana have abolished residency requirements, and Maine officials announced in 2020 that the rule requiring recreational cannabis industries to be owned by state residents would no longer be enforced but left the provision in place for its medical marijuana program.


The state was sued over the residency requirement by Wellness Connection of Maine and its parent company, Delaware-based High Street Capital Partners, on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids states from enacting discriminatory laws against or disproportionately restrict interstate commerce.


However, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen remarked in her judgment that because qualified nonresidents can buy medical cannabis in Maine and carry it home with them, the state's medical cannabis industry is not wholly intrastate. State authorities had made the case that the Dormant Commerce Clause was inconsequential because of the federal prohibition of cannabis.

New Residency Requirements For Dispensaries and Caregivers

The OCP sent a letter to industry participants informing them that the regulations, which required that owners of medical cannabis businesses reside in the state, would no longer be enforced in light of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit's ruling.


The Maine Medical Use of Cannabis Act has long required that any officers or directors of a dispensary reside in the state of Maine, according to regulators, who explained this rule in a letter to the public. The court of Appeal has ordered OCP and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) to quit enforcing the rule in response to a lawsuit challenging it. The court concurred that the law was unconstitutional. OCP has adhered to the Court's ruling and will do so going forward.


According to OCP officials, "Maine has a well-developed and robust medical cannabis program that has addressed the needs of its patients for many years. Removing the residence criteria will not impede the program's ability to continue supplying medical cannabis to eligible patients."


For clarity, the OCP officials pointed out in the letter that although the lawsuit specifically targeted the eligibility requirements of dispensary owners and stakeholders, it also relates to medical cannabis caregivers because similar residency requirements are imposed on licensed medical cannabis caregivers in Maine. After reviewing the court's decision, regulators have established that the ruling also modifies the rules that govern caregivers.

Placing New Limits On Medical Cannabis

The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy issued guidance on October 7 that practically prohibits legal cannabis caregivers without a storefront from selling those products. In contrast, medical marijuana dispensaries and retail chains are required to treat these products like tobacco products with a 21-year-old age cap. Previously, those may have been given to individuals over 18 with a card for medical marijuana.


The new guidelines were opposed because two of the most popular and profitable cannabis products sold in medicinal and adult establishments are pre-rolled products and liquid concentrates for vaporizing.


Erik Gundersen, the director of the Maine OCP, released the directives on his final day before departing to start a marijuana consulting company. He declined to respond to inquiries and directed them back to the state. The guidance is applicable to both medicinal marijuana providers and establishments subject to adult recreational regulations. According to Brandon Pollock, CEO of Theory Wellness, which has four sites from Kittery to Bangor and is licensed for tobacco sales, the change will not affect adult recreational use merchants because there is currently a 21-year-old purchase age limit in place, and they already have that license.


Meanwhile, co-chair of the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Senator Craig Hickman, a Democrat, accused the Maine OCP of "executive branch overreach and insincerity." He explained that most Caretakers of medical marijuana are uncertain about the guidelines and concerned about getting in trouble for breaking them, according to Hickman. In a letter to the state agency dated Tuesday, he pleaded with them to "allow medical cannabis caregivers go into the winter without more worry and anxiety that they are going to lose their shirts or be penalized and imprisoned for conduct plainly recognized under existing statute."

Bottom Line

With the appointment of a new director, John Hudak, for Maine's Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP), Cannabis patients can expect some form of reform in the medical cannabis program. According to reports, the former Brookings head, Hudak, will begin his role on December 30.





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