Maine Cannabis Operator Files Lawsuit Against Portland Over City’s Residency Requirement

Wellness Connection of Maine is suing the city over its cannabis ordinance, alleging that it is “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory” to non-local businesses.

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After reaching a settlement with Maine last month in a dispute over a residency requirement included in the state’s cannabis law, cannabis operator Wellness Connection of Maine has filed a new lawsuit against Portland, which has included in its cannabis ordinance a residency bonus for license applicants who have lived in Maine for at least four years.

Wellness Connection, which operates dispensaries in Portland, Brewer, South Portland and Gardiner, along with its Delaware-based investor, High Street Capital Partners, filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court June 15, alleging that Portland’s cannabis ordinance is “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory” to non-local businesses, according to a WGME report.

The lawsuit alleges that Portland City Council is violating the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits overly restrictive commercial regulations between states, by discriminating against cannabis businesses with non-resident ownership, the news outlet reported.

RELATED: Portland, Maine Approves Local Cannabis Ordinance

The new complaint comes after Wellness Connection filed a lawsuit in March to challenge the constitutionality of Maine’s residency requirement, which required every officer, director and manager of an adult-use cannabis business, as well as the majority of its ownership, to live and file taxes in Maine for a minimum of four years.

Maine eliminated the residency requirement last month after reaching an agreement with Wellness Connection, and shortly thereafter, the Maine Cannabis Coalition, a group of local cannabis businesses, filed a lawsuit against the state alleging that the Department of Administrative and Financial Services has violated state law by refusing the enforce the residency requirement, which was included in Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Act that legalized adult-use cannabis.

The lawsuit alleges that the Office of Marijuana Policy has no authority to abandon state law since it has not been struck down be a court or repealed by the legislature, and it seeks an injunction barring regulators from issuing adult-use cannabis licenses to out-of-state applicants.

In the meantime, Portland’s ordinance took effect June 17, WGME reported, and the city expects to receive business applications over the course of the next month.

Wellness Connection’s lawsuit asks the court for an injunction to bar Portland from awarding any dispensary licenses until a decision is reached in court, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“We were expecting this lawsuit and we are prepared to defend,” Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin told the news outlet.

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