BANGOR, Maine — Northeast Patients Group, the nonprofit company licensed to operate a medical marijuana dispensary that would serve Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, has settled on Bangor and is searching for viable sites.
CEO Becky DeKeuster told city councilors on Wednesday that her firm expects to have its operation up and running in Bangor by next April.
DeKeuster said she was pleased with the ordinance set by the council in October that prohibits dispensaries in certain zones and creates buffers around schools, churches and other locations. She said a Bangor location makes the most sense for Northeast Patients Group because it’s the service center for a large geographic region.
“We have not identified any specific properties, but we’re looking,” she said.
DeKeuster ruled out the possibility that Northeast Patients Group would locate both a dispensary and a cultivation facility in Bangor. She said her firm has another community in mind for the growing operation, although she declined to identify that community.
DeKeuster also addressed a number of questions and concerns brought up by councilors, first explaining how dispensaries arrived in Maine.
Last November, voters approved an expansion of the state’s medical marijuana laws to allow for the creation of dispensaries. Earlier this year, the state approved eight dispensaries, but so far none have opened.
Some have expressed trepidation over problems that have played out in other states such as California, but DeKeuster said Maine has crafted a restrictive and responsible law. For instance, patients cannot get medical marijuana unless they have certain diagnoses, such as cancer, HIV-AIDS or Alzheimer’s. In California, the range of patients eligible for medical marijuana is much broader.
DeKeuster also said Northeast Patients Group plans to employ what she called a social model that provides a supportive environment for patients.
“We’re providing more than just medicine to these patients,” she said.
Police Chief Ron Gastia agreed that the state has been diligent but he acknowledged that there likely would be some growing pains once a facility is opened. So far, he said, Northeast Patients Group has been open and accessible and he envisioned a good working relationship.
“They have been willing to adhere to all of our requirements and, in some case, have gone past that,” Gastia said.
Councilors seemed comfortable that the company has adequate controls and safeguards in place, some of which were mandated by law, some of which were not.