Biddeford may soon be home to one of Maine’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Department of Health and Human Services named Safe Harbor Maine Inc. on Tuesday as the group chosen to operate the only state-licensed dispensary in York County.

Safe Harbor, a new nonprofit, hopes to open for business Jan. 1 on Alfred Street near Southern Maine Medical Center, according to its founder.

“People who need (medical marijuana) have been waiting for a long time and we think that we can do a good job,” said Glenn Peterson of Poland, chief executive officer of Safe Harbor.

Peterson’s plan to open in Biddeford will face an important test tonight when the Planning Board holds a public hearing on zoning to clear the way for such an operation. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Also Tuesday, the DHHS selected Primary Organic Therapy Inc. of Whitneyville to operate a dispensary serving Washington and Hancock counties.

With the two groups chosen Tuesday, the state has selected the operators of eight dispensaries statewide, one for each public health district. Other dispensaries are expected to open this winter in or near Portland, Auburn, Augusta, Thomaston, Bangor and Fort Kent.

Use of medical marijuana has been legal in Maine for more than a decade, although eligible patients could only grow their own or have a caregiver grow it for them. Maine voters opened the door last fall to commercial-scale dispensaries as a way to expand access to patients with debilitating conditions such as cancer or AIDS.

Peterson said Safe Harbor Maine’s location for a dispensary in York County still hinges on Biddeford’s zoning discussion.

Biddeford imposed a moratorium on dispensaries that will expire Sept. 16, unless it is extended, he said. Tonight, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on a proposal to allow the growing and dispensing of medical marijuana in several zones, including one that includes Safe Harbor’s preferred site.

Peterson is a former business owner and a former selectman in Poland. He is a caregiver who grows marijuana for two patients and said he simply wants to be one of the pioneers in the state’s new dispensary business.

If allowed by the city, Safe Harbor will begin growing its marijuana at the same site as the dispensary, he said.

York County’s increasing population is expected to make the dispensary one of the state’s busiest. Peterson, however, expects the demand will start slowly and his dispensary will lose money in its first full year.

“That’s the greatest unknown – the number of patients out there,” he said.

The two dispensary operators announced Tuesday were chosen from a total of 17 applications by a four-member panel. They were scored based on plans to operate as nonprofit corporations long-term, convenience of location, business experience, patient education, record-keeping, quality control and other criteria.

The DHHS has hired a new medical marijuana program manager to work with dispensary operators to select sites and set up growing and dispensing operations. The program manager also will work with patients and caregivers as they register under the new state rules.

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]