State OKs Site for New Medical Marijuana Dispensary; State Officials Surprised By Results of Referendum Vote

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By Carol McCracken (Post # 535)

Late last week the State’s Department of Health & Human Services told Northeast Patients Group that it could go forward with its plans to establish a medical marijuana dispensary at the site of the former Key Bank at the corner of Congress and St. John’s Streets in Portland.

On Tuesday July 13, Becky DeKeuster, of Northeast Patients Group, told the planning board at an afternoon workshop: “The former bank does not abut any residential properties and can be easily secured.” Several days following that workshop, it was disclosed that the Deliverance Center, a church that runs a school and Bible College, was located within 500 ft. of the proposed dispensary, which is illegal to do in Maine. The matter was referred back to the Department of Health & Human Services for a decision.

Late yesterday afternoon, Catherine Cobb, who is the director of licensing and regulatory licenses, Augusta, said that since the Department of Education has never heard of the Christian Academy it does not meet the state’s statutory requirements. “It has to meet some statutory definition of a school we would all recognize as a school. And it doesn’t,” Cobb said. She went on to say that she believed she didn’t need to notify them because no one from Deliverance Center had been in touch with her.

Officials in Augusta did not believe that the referendum to permit marijuana dispensaries in Maine would pass in last year’s election Cobb. “We didn’t anticipate it would pass, so we started from scratch the day after election day and we’ve been very busy ever since,” she said. In fact, she did not vote in favor of the referendum herself.

Since Maine is one of only 5 states in the country that allows dispensaries for the distribution of medical marijuana, Cobb has been overwhelmed by media inquiries as well as questions by other states wanting to observe the process as it unfolds. Officials from Canada want to visit in September.

“I’ll be glad when things settle down so I can get back to my old job,” Cobb said at the end of another long day yesterday.