A federal appellate court ruled on Wednesday, the 17th of August, that Maine’s law prohibiting non-residents from owning medical cannabis businesses in the state violates the U.S. Constitution. But legal experts say that the decision could have more far-reaching implications for interstate cannabis commerce—and could create possible complications for social equity programs.
Industry stakeholders have been closely monitoring the case, as many have argued that the Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause at the center of the ruling does, in fact, apply to the cannabis industry, regardless of ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed that interpretation, which is broadly meant to prevent states from enforcing laws that unduly restrict interstate commerce unless given specific instruction from Congress. Maine’s “residency requirement” for medical cannabis licensing is an example of an excessive regulation to that end, the panel’s majority found.
While cannabis might be federally illegal, the court said that Congress has “acknowledged the existence of a market in medical cannabis” through a spending bill rider known as the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, which bars the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere in state-legal medical cannabis markets.
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