Dispensary Will See Patients Full Time Starting Next Month
HALLOWELL -- A city medical marijuana dispensary started seeing patients by appointment before Christmas and plans to open full time next month.
Wellness Connection of Maine's 2,400-square-foot dispensary, one floor above the Liberal Cup on Water Street, is scheduled to open by January's end, according to the firm's executive director, Becky DeKeuster.
Under state law, the dispensary will be the only one allowed in Kennebec County.
Earlier this year, DeKeuster had hoped the dispensary would be open by the fall. Renovations have held up the Hallowell dispensary's opening, according to Jane Lane, senior vice president with Philip W. Johnston Associates, a Boston-based public affairs firm working with Wellness Connection.
"Becky loves her contractors," Lane said. "But the fact is, we have to wait until the renovations are complete."
DeKeuster said Wednesday that renovations are "pretty well finished," with a few finishing touches remaining.
"It's a very beautiful and serviceable location," DeKeuster said.
The location has a parking area off Dummers Lane, with a winding handicapped-accessible ramp leading to a unmarked door with a keypad lock and a security camera overhead. Inside is a tidy, mostly empty space, with orange walls and a hardwood floor.
DeKeuster said she didn't have an estimate of the number of patients who have already been seen. To receive medical marijuana, patients must have one of many state-approved qualifying conditions and get a recommendation from a doctor.
In 2010, Northeast Patients Group, a nonprofit organization that changed its name to Wellness Connection of Maine earlier this month, won an exclusive license to operate the four dispensaries -- in Portland, Kennebec County, the Bangor area and in Thomaston.
Northeast Patients Group updated its financial projections for all four dispensaries earlier this year after the finalization of a $1.6 million loan from The Wellness and Pain Management Connection, a Delaware corporation comprised of California-based The Farmacy Institute for Wellness and ex-NBA player Cuttino Mobley.
They said the Kennebec County dispensary would serve 86 patients in its first full year and lose more than $465,000. It also said medical marijuana will be sold for $340 an ounce at all four locations.
Those predictions were significantly rosier than the ones Northeast filed in the application for the license it won to operate Kennebec County's dispensary. In 2010, it said it would serve 155 patients in its first year and profit $17,534.
The Thomaston dispensary is the only Wellness Connection dispensary that is open. DeKeuster said it has been serving patients since September.
This has been a hard year for Northeast. In July, Northeast Patients Group was sued for $632,000 in unpaid loans in Cumberland County Superior Court by its former financial backer, Berkeley Patients Group, a California dispensary. Berkeley also asked the court to remove DeKeuster from her job with Northeast.
Berkeley also alleges DeKeuster used proprietary information to negotiate a financing deal involving former NBA basketball player Cuttino Mobley while still employed as Berkeley's New England expansion director -- which would be against a no-compete clause in her employment contract with Berkeley.
She quit her job with Berkeley in February, days after signing a letter of intent for a never-finalized, $2 million preliminary financing deal for Northeast with Mobley Pain Management and Wellness Center.
DeKeuster said interest from patients has been mostly proportional to the population in each area the nonprofit group owns a license -- with the company fielding fewer calls from Kennebec County than Cumberland County.
"There is certainly need out there," she said. "And the good news is there seem to be a lot of doctors recommending the medication and working with patients to monitor their use."
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Source: Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME)
Author: Michael Shepherd
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