Court upholds Wash. residency requirement for pot industry

Feb 8, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 6:11 pm

SEATTLE (AP) — 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.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incid...

Associated Press

American Airlines CEO calls removal of Black passengers from Phoenix flight ‘unacceptable’

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix.

2 days ago

FILE - Crystal Baziel holds the Pan-African flag Monday, June 19, 2023, during Reedy Chapel A.M.E C...

Associated Press

The beginner’s guide to celebrating Juneteenth

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since it was designated a federal […]

3 days ago

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

8 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

9 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

11 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

15 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Court upholds Wash. residency requirement for pot industry