Portland marijuana dispensary to be hybrid pharmacy-community center

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PORTLAND — The medical marijuana dispensary planned for Congress Street will be part pharmacy and part community center, according to the group’s executive director.

Becky DeKeuster, of Northeast Patients Group, said the dispensary will not only be a place where patients can get their medicine, but will also be a place where patients can hang out and be offered other alternative treatments.

“We have a focus on building community with our patients,” she said. “Illness can be very isolating.”

Northeast Patients Group signed a five-year lease for a 6,500 square-foot space at 685 Congress St., the rear portion of the Local 188 building.

DeKeuster said the group will be renovating the space, which will also house the group’s administrative offices.

She said the office is expected to have Wi-Fi and cafe-style tables, where patients take their medication and drink some tea. The facility plans to offer counseling services, as well as other alternative medicine and treatment options, including yoga, massages and acupuncture.

“The site will only be open to patients,” she said. “I guess it will be a hybrid pharmacy-community center.”

DeKeuster said the dispensary will train patients to take the smallest amount of medicine as possible. They will be asked to sign a “good neighbor agreement” where they must inform the dispensary if they are “over-medicated” so arrangements can be made to get them home safely, she said.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the space is currently within a zone that would allow the dispensary, but the group would still have to apply for a change of use permit.

No permits had been issued as of Monday, Clegg said.

DeKeuster said she hopes to have the dispensary open within the next two months. The business, which secured state approvals to open four dispensaries in Maine, should be open by the end of the year.

In its application to the state, the dispensary said it will not only offer marijuana that can be smoked, but also in edible forms, such as butter, baked goods, lozenges and tinctures.

Catherine Cobb, director of licensing and regulatory services for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said patients will be able to buy up to 2.5 ounces every 15 days. That limit also applies to edibles, which must indicate how much marijuana they contain, she said.

Cobb said the state will not know how many patients will use the dispensary until it receives its certification of registration.

DeKeuster said the group has secured $1.6 million in financing for all four dispensaries and is aggressively moving forward on the Portland site.

Once the renovations are complete, state officials will have to inspect the building to evaluate, among other things, its security.

“We do have an extensive plan that exceeds what pharmacies are using,” DeKeuster said. “We definitely want the atmosphere to be welcoming, yet secure. We’re going to strike a delicate balance.”

She said the dispensary is expected to employ up to 10 people within the first 18 months, and expects to begin soliciting applications in the coming weeks.

“It’s been a long road,” DeKeuster said. “We’re just thrilled to be in a position where we’re finally experiencing real momentum and forward movement. We can’t wait to start and get to know our new neighbors.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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Northeast Patents Group signed a five-year lease to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in this 6,500 square-foot space at 685 Congress St., behind Local 188.

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