Court upholds Wash. residency requirement for pot industry

Feb 10, 2023, 7:12 AM
Cannabis flowers are sold in the "pop up" location of Smacked, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in New York....

Cannabis flowers are sold in the "pop up" location of Smacked, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A U.S. judge has upheld Washington’s residency requirement for involvement in the state’s legal cannabis industry — a decision at odds with a federal appeals court ruling concerning a similar requirement in Maine.

A man who co-owns a chain of Washington cannabis stores called Zips, Scott Atkinson, wanted to transfer part of his ownership interest to a longtime friend who lives in Idaho, Todd Brinkmeyer. Atkinson has been treated for cancer and said he hoped Brinkmeyer would help take over the business should his health deteriorate.

But Washington requires owners and investors in regulated marijuana businesses to have lived in the state for at least six months, and Brinkmeyer said he has no intention of moving.

Brinkmeyer sued the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board in 2020, arguing that the residency requirement was unconstitutional because it interferes with interstate commerce — which is the purview of Congress — and discriminates against him as an out-of-state resident.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma disagreed in a ruling issued Monday. He found that the residency requirement couldn’t interfere with interstate commerce because there is no legal interstate commerce in marijuana — the drug remains illegal under federal law.

“Although Washington’s ‘legalization’ of cannabis certainly does not align with Congress’s intent, the residency requirements do,” Settle wrote. “The residency requirements attempt to prevent any interstate commerce in cannabis and to prevent cannabis from Washington from moving into states where it remains illegal, like Idaho.”

Further, Settle ruled, Washington was not discriminating against Brinkmeyer as an out-of-state resident under the Constitution’s “Privileges and Immunities Clause” because “it has never been established that there is any right … to engage in illegal commerce.”

The ruling was at odds with a decision from a federal court judge in Maine who struck down a residency requirement in that state’s medical marijuana program. The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — so far the only federal appeals court to consider the matter — upheld that ruling last summer, saying that whether legal or not, there is interstate commerce in marijuana, and it’s up to Congress to regulate it.

Dan Oates, an attorney for Brinkmeyer, said in an email Tuesday they were evaluating whether to appeal Settle’s order.

“It is unfortunate, particularly because, as the court acknowledged, the ruling stands in stark contrast to the majority of rulings by other federal courts on this same issue,” Oates said.

Washington and Colorado in 2012 became the first U.S. states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. Washington limited investment in and ownership of its licensed cannabis businesses to within the state, largely in hopes of persuading the U.S. Justice Department not to challenge its legal marijuana law in court.

Two Washington cannabis industry groups — the Washington CannaBusiness Alliance and the Craft Cannabis Coalition — urged the court to strike down the residency requirement, saying it unfairly limits access to investment.

“The livelihoods of thousands of citizens depend on this industry,” the groups wrote. “These citizens are adversely affected by the State’s exclusionary and protectionist policies that restrict their ability to raise capital and grow their businesses.”


Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
16 hours ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
2 days ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
2 days ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
3 days ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
3 days ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Court upholds Wash. residency requirement for pot industry