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Applications to Operate Maine's Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Pour in


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Until today, Catherine Cobb of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services says the state had received only one dispensary application and it was incomplete. But by two o'clock this afternoon, they came pouring in -- 29 applications for eight districts.

Three were late and not accepted. But of the 29 applicants, several are seeking to open dispensaries in more than one location. "We expected many individual companies to compete for the same districts," Cobb says. "We will sort it out as we review the applications and score them and figure out which are the best ones."

Under Maine's Medical Use of Marijuana Act, the applications will be scored on a variety of criteria, such as convenience of location, prior business experience, patient education, record keeping, security and staffing. Igor Rakuz of the Maine Wellness Group says his non-profit applied for three of the eight districts: in southern Maine, Cumberland County and mid-coast Maine.

He says his group developed a patient-centric social networking system that's similar to Facebook, but which complies with federal patient privacy laws. "It's a half-a-million dollar Web site that's sold to hospitals. We're one of the first to utilize this technology and what it does is it helps us quantify anecdotal evidence from testimony from patients and caregivers and doctors."

Rakuz also touts the fact that his group has teamed up with the University of New England School of Pharmacology to analyze medicinal properties of the marijuana strains they use. "By doing so, we'll be the first group to ever be able to quantify this information, to actually see what a patient is smoking and why they're getting the effects that they are getting."

But in order to move ahead with that plan, the Maine Wellness Group will have to be awarded at least one license in one of the three districts for which it has applied. And it will have competition. The Northeast Patients Group, which is tied to the well-established Berkeley Patients Group in California, also has applications for Cumberland County and the midcoast. In fact, the group has five applications for the eight districts, the most of any applicant.

A spokesperson for Northeast Patients Group did not return telephone calls to MPBN by airtime, but Catherine Cobb of DHHS says previous dispensary experience does not necessarily give any applicant an advantage. "All we ask for is experience running a non-profit or other business. We're looking for the business experience and then we're looking at the quality of the application."

Northeast Patients Group was the only applicant for District 5, which includes Waterville. And only one applicant, a group calling itself Safer Alternatives of Fort Kent, applied for District 8 in northernmost Maine. That would appear to put both in good standing for a dispensary license. But it's no guarantee.

The applications will have to meet approval from a panel of four people in DHHS. Cobb is one of them. She declined to identify any of the others appointed by the commissioner. The panel is expected to name the eight finalists on July 9th.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Author: Susan Sharon
Contact: Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Copyright: 2010 Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Website: Applications to Operate Maine's Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Pour in
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