Medical marijuana group reaches financial agreement as lawsuit looms

Posted July 16, 2011, at 12:52 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A $2 million financing deal between a former professional basketball player and Northeast Patients Group, the license holder for half of Maine’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries, reportedly has been reached.

Although terms of the agreement are not expected to be released until Monday, a state official told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that a deal has been reached.

The agreement, as outlined in a letter of intent dated Feb. 23, indicates that former National Basketball Association player Cuttino Mobley will pledge at least $2 million to get Northeast Patients Group’s dispensaries up and running. The group holds state licenses for clinics in the Bangor area, Thomaston, Kennebec County and in the Portland market.

The financing agreement comes about a week after a lawsuit was filed against Northeast Patients Group by its former financial partner, Berkeley Patients Group out of California. The suit claims that Northeast Patients Group Executive Director Rebecca DeKeuster breached terms of her contract by using inside information to cut a deal with Mobley.

DeKuester resigned on Feb. 24 from her position as Berkeley Patients Group’s New England expansion director, just one day after she reportedly signed a letter of intent to partner with Mobley’s Rhode Island-based Pain Management and Wellness Center.

The lawsuit, filed July 6 in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, charges DeKeuster with breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and seeks $632,000 in lost investments and related costs.

“She essentially resigned her position and took [Northeast Patients Group] in a different direction with a different group,” said attorney Chuck Remmel of Portland, who represents Berkeley Patients Group in the lawsuit.

Daniel Walker, an Augusta attorney who represents DeKeuster and Northeast Patients Group, has declined to comment on claims made in the complaint.

Mobley, 35, played in the NBA for 11 years mostly as a member of the Houston Rockets and then the Los Angeles Clippers. Before that, he was a college basketball star at the University of Rhode Island, but he also spent a year at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield before enrolling at URI in the mid-1990s.

Since he retired from his basketball career, Mobley has been active in the medical marijuana industry. He is the sole financial backer of the Summit Compassion Center, a dispensary planned for the Providence, R.I. area that currently is on hold amid concerns over conflicting state and federal laws governing medical marijuana.

The letter of intent between Mobley’s group and Northeast Patients Group in Maine spells out $2 million in financing and a $100,000 bridge loan to fund operation of the four clinics. Mobley will provide medical marijuana supplies and also will consult on security, cultivation, marketing and public relations, according to the letter, which also outlines a repayment schedule that includes an 18 percent interest rate.

Northeast Patients Group already has launched its marijuana growing operation in Thomaston and plans to supply all four of its clinics and more than 1,000 patients across the state from that facility.

So far, though, prospective patients are waiting for medicine.

Meanwhile, the other four dispensaries licensed by the state — in Ellsworth, Biddeford, Auburn and Frenchville — all are open and are dispensing medical marijuana.

Catherine Cobb, who oversees the state’s medical marijuana program for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said the lawsuit against Northeast Patients Group does not affect its licenses.

As for the new financing deal, Cobb said the state’s primary concern is that the proposal upholds the nonprofit structure of Northeast Patients Group’s business plan.

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