THOMASTON, Maine — The town board of appeals gave approval Tuesday night to a medical marijuana dispensary set to open next year. Northeast Patients Group now plans to move into a rental property on New County Road by January 2011.
“This is a significant step forward for the state of Maine,” said Becky DeKeuster, executive director of the nonprofit Northeast Patients Group.
“For patients in this area, it means they will have another option in their health care,” she said.
The board, which has jurisdiction over the use of buildings in town, voted unanimously to allow the dispensary to move into town.
DeKeuster, who was in tears when the board gave its approval, said she already has received about 20 calls from people in the midcoast asking when they will be able to receive treatments from her nonprofit.
If all goes well, DeKeuster said, her nonprofit would be doling out doses of marijuana to patients with a doctor’s note next January.
The dispensary will be located in the area across from Lowe’s on Route 1.
Questions raised by board members at the Tuesday night meeting were focused on security issues. DeKeuster assured the board that Northeast Patients Group would have security cameras, alarm systems, floodlights, and a fence around the perimeter if necessary. She also said she would be in contact with the Thomaston Police Department regularly.
“We want to work to not add to any crime rate — we want to detract from it,” DeKeuster said to Police Chief Kevin Haj after the meeting.
Another issue board members brought up concerned where the marijuana would be grown. DeKeuster said the group might grow it in Portland but that decision is not final and it might want to grow in Thomaston.
“We would know by the end of the month if we plan on doing this here,” she said of growing the plants.
Board of appeals chairwoman Anita Knowlton said she does not think the new Thomaston tenant will have much of a social or economic effect on the town. DeKeuster disagreed and said her organization plans to use local programs and bring people to the area. This, she argued, might have a positive economic effect on local restaurants, shops and gas stations.
It took about 20 minutes for the board to discuss and approve the dispensary. Eight people, including the police chief, the property owner, Northeast Patients Group representatives and media, attended the meeting. Knowlton was disappointed in the lack of public comment.
“I was expecting a lot more public here tonight. I’m disappointed no one came,” Knowlton said after the meeting. “If people don’t come, they lose their voice.”