Dispensary applicants line up, wait
Seventeen groups file 29 applications for eight districts; state to make selections July 9
By Leslie Bridgers
AUGUSTA -- Nearly 30 applications to run Maine's first eight medical-marijuana dispensaries will be scrutinized during the next two weeks.
Western Maine District 3 (Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties):
Ahead Care, CEO Lucas Sirois, proposed dispensary in Wilton or Farmington
Medical Marijuana Supply, CEO Glen Peterson
Maine Patients Center, CEO Fred Kessler
Green Therapy of Maine, CEO Sherri LaPointe
Northeast Patients Group, CEO Rebecca DeKeuster, proposed dispensary in Auburn or Poland
Remedy Compassion Center, CEO Timothy Smale
Central Maine District 5 (Kennebec and Somerset counties):
Maine Alternative Medicine, CEO David Marchese
Northeast Patients Group, CEO Rebecca DeKeuster, proposed dispensary in Waterville
The Department of Health and Human Services' deadline for the applications -- and accompanying $15,000 checks -- was Friday afternoon.
Catherine Cobb, director of DHHS' Licensing and Regulatory Services Division, said she received a couple of applications earlier in the week, but the vast majority came in on Friday, most in the final hour before the deadline.
Twenty-nine applications were submitted by 17 different groups.
The dispensaries will be spread out among the state's eight public health districts. So, applicants will be competing only with others who applied to the same districts.
After dropping off multiple copies of the thick applications in binders, cardboard boxes and accordion folders on Friday, many of the applicants said they felt the same way.
"Tired," said Luke Sirois of Rangeley, who applied to the York, central Maine and western Maine districts.
Aspiring dispensary operators had less than two months to put together their applications, which will be reviewed by a four-person panel and scored on a 100-point scale. The panel will announce its selections on July 9.
"My job has been working on this," said Tim Smale, who applied to the western Maine district.
After learning about how difficult it is for patients to find high-quality, affordable medical marijuana, Smale said he and his wife Jenna, who live in Vienna, spent nine months in California in order to learn about the industry.
"We purposely decided to commit ourselves to see patients have all those things," he said.
State voters approved medical marijuana dispensaries in November, making Maine the fifth state --after California, Colorado, Rhode Island and New Mexico -- to have such a system.
Igor Rakuz and Brendan McGann, of the Maine Wellness Group, said the decision to apply to run a dispensary was a personal thing because they are both medical-marijuana patients.
They said they pulled several all-nighters perfecting their applications to the Cumberland, York and mid-coast districts.
"We definitely skipped a couple days," Rakuz said about their lack of sleep.
The application instructions called for explanations of the applicants' financing and evidence of their business acumen. They had to show that they're knowledgeable about growing marijuana, familiar with different strains and capable of educating patients about the plant.
They had to make timetables of their startup plans, outlines of their security systems and projections of their income for the next three years.
The Cumberland, York and western Maine districts received the largest number of applications, with six groups vying to run a dispensary in each.
Three applications were submitted for the mid-coast and Down East districts, and two were put in for the Penquis district, which comprises Piscataquis and Penobscot counties.
There was only one application submitted for the Aroostook district.
Aside from exhaustion, the other common feeling among the applicants leaving the Augusta office on Friday was confidence.
"Our board of directors is superlative," said Brian Eagar, co-founder of Green Relief MD, which hopes to open a dispensary in either Eliot or Sanford.
"There's no one, I believe, that's as motivated as we are," said Sirois.
Rakuz and McGann shook up cans of seltzer and sprayed them across the parking lot of the DHHS building in celebration. They talked about the extent of their plans, which include the development of a social networking website for medical-marijuana patients.
"I'd love to see someone's application even touch ours," said Rakuz.