PORTLAND – The group that plans to open Portland’s first medical marijuana dispensary expects to learn Monday whether it must find another site.

Northeast Patients Group chose 959 Congress St. as its preferred home for a state-licensed dispensary, which is scheduled to open in December.

But the property may be too close to the Deliverance Center, a church that takes in drug addicts and alcoholics and houses a small private school called the Christian Academy of Portland.

State law says “a dispensary may not be located within 500 feet of the property line of a pre-existing public or private school.”

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services plan to meet Monday to determine whether the dispensary should operate elsewhere.

“What we’re trying to do is determine if (the academy) truly is a licensed school,” said Lucky Hollander, a spokeswoman for the department.

The state law applies only to schools that are licensed by the state Department of Education, Hollander said, although she added, “we don’t want to be technical about this We have to get together with (the involved parties) and mediate a solution.”

The Rev. Stephen Reynolds, a pastor at the Deliverance Center whose children went to the school, said Friday that he doesn’t believe the school has a license from the state.

The school offers kindergarten through 12th grade for children of the church’s families. It has been operating nearly every school year since 1978, although it did not operate last school year, Reynolds said.

It expects four or five students this fall, he said.

Reynolds said he fears that making marijuana available for medical reasons will increase drug abuse problems, and he is especially concerned about having a dispensary so close to where he is trying to help people overcome drug addiction.

The church and school are at 1008 Congress St. A preliminary measurement by city officials shows the building is more than 512 feet from the building at 959 Congress St.

But “the distance from property line to property line is 443.785 feet,” said Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city.

Rebecca DeKeuster, chief executive officer of Northeast Patients Group, said the group will work with state officials and the community to find a suitable site, whether it’s on Congress Street or elsewhere.

“We’re waiting to hear back from the state,” she said. “The (preferred) property is certainly on hold.”

Northeast Patients Group has not signed a lease for the space. It has identified alternative sites, including 95 Preble St.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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