It'll be a while before Portlanders with doctor's orders for medical marijuana have a local dispensary, but Northeast Patients Group may open its first facility in Thomaston in the next couple of weeks.
NPG, which holds four of Maine's first eight dispensary licenses, is still embroiled in a legal battle with Berkeley Patients Group, its original financing partner (see "Keep Patients Waiting," by Deirdre Fulton, July 22) — a fight that now involves not just the original lawsuit, claiming breach of contract and other problems, but a countersuit seeking lots of money NPG claims BPG should have paid out but never did.
But NPG cleared a major hurdle resulting from its rift, getting state approval last week for its revised financing deal, backed now by former NBA player Cuttino Mobley and the California-based Farmacy Institute for Wellness.
A letter from Catherine Cobb, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services official in charge of medical-marijuana licensing, said the new deal was substantially similar to the previous arrangement with BPG, which had won state approval. Cobb noted that there was potential concern over NPG's ability to funnel "excessive profits" to the Farmacy Institute through paid consultants' fees, but said NPG's list of fees allayed those worries.
Where the Portland dispensary will go — and when it will open — remain to be seen, though NPG says it's shooting for October. Complicating issues abound (see "Smoke Local," by Deirdre Fulton, February 18 and "Where to Put the Pot," by Kegan Zema, June 11, 2010, for examples of economic and logistical concerns), and the Portland City Council has yet to weigh in.