The first medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Maine announced Wednesday that they quietly have begun serving patients at a new location. This was one of four dispensaries that have opened this year. The facility is around 6,500 square foot and is by Wellness Connection of Maine under the provisions of a 2009 state law which has allowed eight medical marijuana distribution sites across Maine.
Rebecca DeKeuster, executive director of Wellness Connection of Maine, said her organization is opting for a low-key opening at its Portland facility, saying in a statement that no grand opening is planned and that an open house for community leaders and “educational events” are scheduled for later in the year.
The proposed Portland location got some heat in 2011 when Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program Manager John Thiele expressed concerns about the facility’s planned “vapor lounge,” where patients could sit and breathe in marijuana-based medicinal compounds while avoiding the respiratory and carcinogenic risks associated with smoking.
Wellness Connection of Maine, which previously did business as Northeast Patients Group, dropped plans for the vapor lounge in response to Thiele’s concerns the room would become a hangout.
In a statement released by Wellness Connection of Maine, Portland dispensary manager Diane Schinella said she expects the location to serve more than 100 patients in its first few months of operation, with plans to hire as many as eight employees there within the first six months.
Only qualified patients are allowed to enter the dispensaries, which are state regulated and permitted. Patients can seek doctors’ prescriptions of marijuana to help ease the pain of chronic illnesses.