Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2011
Source: Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME)
Copyright: 2011 MaineToday Media, Inc.
Author: Michael Shepherd


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

"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

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

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

"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." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D