BREWER, Maine — Officials in charge of opening a medical marijuana dispensary in the Bangor region have signed a lease for a location on Dirigo Drive, but have decided they need another month before going in front of the planning board.
“On Monday, we’ll be submitting our site plan and will be meeting in February” with the Brewer Planning Board, said Rebecca DeKeuster, CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine, formerly known as Northeast Patients Group, on Friday.
The nonprofit organization, permitted to operate half of the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries, filed a site plan application for 221 Dirigo Drive last month and originally was scheduled to go before the planning board this month.
The region’s first pot dispensary is just down the street from CancerCare of Maine.
“It’s a fairly small site, it’s under 3,000 square feet, but it will provide us with enough space to provide services needed and the community center we’re envisioning,” DeKeuster said. “We’re really pleased with the site.”
Wellness Connection of Maine will use the left side of the building, which is at the intersection of Sparks Avenue and Dirigo Drive, and will need to make safety and security upgrades before opening.
“We have a really advanced security system,” DeKeuster said, adding that under state law, the facilities are not open to the general public. “We have a receptionist and everyone will be buzzed into the building.”
Patients will have to show a Maine driver’s license or Maine identification card and have a doctor’s recommendation in hand to get past the receptionist. All new patients also will undergo an initial intake process to ensure all the needed documentation is in place and to talk about options based on their ailment, DeKeuster said.
“Only then will they be allowed to enter,” she said.
The group first approached Brewer in June 2010, which was before it gained approval from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to run half of the state’s eight clinics. The Wellness Connection of Maine clinics are in or around Augusta, Bangor, Portland and Thomaston.
The nonprofit already has launched its marijuana growing operation in Thomaston and plans to supply all four of its clinics from that facility. No cultivation will happen in Brewer, DeKeuster said.
In addition to a variety of strains of medical marijuana intended for smoking, the Brewer facility also will have cannabis butters, tinctures, baked goods and lozenges, the group’s website states.
“This range of choices will allow patients to choose which methods work best for them,” the site states. “We will also offer a variety of tools and accessories to help you take your medicine.”
The community center is a place where patients will be able to interact with each other, and Community Wellness of Maine officials or medical professionals can offer patients education or wellness programs such as acupuncture, DeKeuster said.
“Illness can be so isolating,” she said. “What we want to do is offer a space where patients are comfortable to bring their knitting, to bring a book. It’s quiet and comforting, and they can” learn about or take advantage of other health care offerings.
“The medicine is important but we are committed to offer our patients a full spectrum of coverage,” DeKeuster said. “It’s a way we can continue to support their health beyond the medicine.”
People in the Bangor region, some who travel to Ellsworth for the medicine, already have been calling to sign up as patients at the Brewer clinic, she said.
“There is definitely a need,” DeKeuster said.