Of the four medical marijuana dispensary districts awarded to Northeast Patients Group, the Thomaston facility on Route 1 will be the first priority, according to Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services Director Catherine Cobb of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“We are finalizing our financing and preparing to build out the Thomaston site, with our eye on a late-spring opening,” Northeast Patients Group Executive Director Becky DeKeuster said in an e-mail Jan. 25.

The Thomaston Board of Appeals voted unanimously Aug. 3 to approve Northeast Patients Group’s request for a conditional use to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Route 1. Code Enforcement Officer Peter Surek said the company may have to come back to the town for a building permit, depending on the renovations needed to the building.

Bill Bird owns the property at 149 New County Road where the dispensary has been proposed.

“NPG will work with our patients to identify ways that we can help support their health care plans, so the services we offer may vary slightly in each district,” DeKeuster said. “Whether that’s acupuncture, nutrition guidance, or some other type of service, we look forward to partnering with local providers to offer what our patients need.”

“The Thomaston site will likely start small, with under 10 staffers,” DeKeuster said. “We are ready to scale up as needed; people with a variety of backgrounds have been sending in resumes and our clients can expect to be served by a highly-trained, knowledgeable and compassionate staff. Those interested in a career with us can send in a resume with cover letter via a link at our website.”

“We will not grow on-site in Thomaston,” DeKeuster said. “For security purposes, we are not discussing our cultivation plans at this time.”

Cobb said the project in Thomaston has moved a little more slowly than anticipated. She noted that Northeast Patients Group is developing four dispensaries including Thomaston. In addition, it will need to develop a separate location to grow the marijuana, according to Cobb.

Northeast has been looking at a potential site in the town of Hermon for the growing operation. That town has been working on its regulations for medical marijuana facilities.

Cobb said Northeast plans to purchase a site to grow the marijuana, but she said she could not disclose the location of the growing site at this time.

She said she expects the company will start growing marijuana at the new site soon, possibly within the next 30 days. She said that will not be done in Thomaston.

“The plan was never to grow marijuana in Thomaston,” she said.

She said Thomaston was the first priority because the site would require the most construction out of the four the company is opening.

Northeast Patients Group’s board of directors met Friday and made some key decisions, Cobb said, which she expects will move the process along faster. She did not elaborate on those decisions.

DeKeuster said in previous comments that she was excited by the decision of the Thomaston board to approve the project.

“This is a significant step forward for the state of Maine,” she said. “This brings all of Maine one step closer to realizing what the citizens voted for.”

DeKeuster said this will provide another option for health care in the area. She said it will create some new jobs and serve as an economic stimulus. She said people coming into the community to access medication will stop for gas and food.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced July 9 that Northeast Patients Group had been selected as the marijuana dispensary for the state’s District 4, which includes Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties.

DeKeuster said her organization scored well in the state’s review process for several reasons. The group identified Thomaston as a potential location for the dispensary because it is central and accessible to patients.

She also said Northeast has a strong security plan for the facility, which exceeds the requirements for pharmacies.

It was important to the state that the dispensaries be run by nonprofit organizations. DeKeuster said any extra money the dispensary makes will be invested back into the program or into other health care services for clients, such as acupuncture. She added that after the dispensary becomes solvent, which she anticipates will be after the first couple of years, it will be able to give back to the community through donations to food banks, or even police and fire departments.

“It’s more than just a dispensary,” she said. “It’s a healing center.”

She envisions the facility offering a variety of therapies for patients.

DeKeuster said Maine has one of the clearest medical marijuana laws of any of the states that have approved it for that use. Under the law, a doctor cannot legally prescribe the drug, but the patient needs to get a certification or a note from a doctor saying the drug is needed or beneficial.

All medical marijuana patients will also have to register with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. That department will have oversight of the dispensaries and inspect them.

DeKeuster said security will be tight. The growing is to be done in closed, locked facilities. She said the Thomaston dispensary will have “man trap” entries, or two locked doors at each entry. The facility will also be equipped with cameras and panic buttons.

Northeast Patients Group was also chosen to operate dispensaries in District 2 in Portland, District 5 in Waterville and District 6 in the Bangor area.

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