They would charge anywhere from $200 to $400 for each ounce of Lemon Diesel, Green Queen or other varieties of marijuana.

Many would provide massage, acupuncture and yoga as extra services. One would organize knitting and quilting groups. Another would hire a pastry chef to turn marijuana into gourmet organic “edibles.”

And, while the Maine market is untested, most expect to sell at least $1 million worth of the drug in the first full year of operation, starting July 1, 2011.

Seventeen groups have made their best pitches to operate Maine’s first nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries. A copy of each application was opened to an initial inspection by the media Wednesday afternoon, providing the first glimpse of what the dispensaries may look like, where they may operate and how much money they could make.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services plans to announce on Friday which of the applicants will be awarded the first dispensary licenses. The state’s new medical marijuana law allows for eight dispensaries in various regions of the state, including one each in Cumberland and York counties. Some groups submitted applications for more than one district.

The state may not issue all eight licenses, if the applications in each district don’t meet requirements for serving patients, protecting public safety and other scoring standards.

“This is new for everybody, and I think we’ve learned a lot,” said Catherine Cobb, director of licensing for the department and one of four people on the state’s official review panel.

The 12 applications for York and Cumberland counties were clearly influenced by dispensaries in California and other states that have medical marijuana laws.

Most would educate patients about how to use medical marijuana and which varieties can be used to reduce migraine headaches, nausea, seizures and other conditions.

Most say they would offer discounts for low-income patients or other groups, such as senior citizens and veterans.

All would offer marijuana in raw form to be smoked, or in forms such as cookies, butter, lozenges and tinctures — liquid medications.

At least one group in the Portland area, Southern Maine Medicinal Clinic, would have a pastry chef on staff to create a variety of edible medicines.

Most applicants say they would be in full operation this fall, although some say they would start providing marijuana on a small scale within a few months. Some applicants are already growing marijuana on a small scale as patients and caregivers.

The financial details in the applications vary widely.

Marijuana sales for the first full year, for example, are generally projected to be $1 million to $2 million, although estimates range as high as $18 million. Estimated prices for the medication range from $200 to $400 an ounce, which can generally make 40 to 50 marijuana cigarettes.

The state has not set any limits on prices, but is reviewing the pricing information as part of the application process.

The Northeast Patients Group, which has applied to operate dispensaries in Portland and four other communities, said it would charge $340 an ounce “to offer medication at an affordable price but also to keep its rate in line with the ‘black’ market, estimated at $360 an ounce or over.”

A group called Primary Organic Therapy, which wants to open dispensaries in Brunswick and Kittery, estimated it will charge $200 an ounce, well below the black market price.

Primary Organic Therapy — POT — estimates that it would have 1,000 customers in its first full year, and sell $2.9 million worth of the drug.

After paying its staff and directors more than $1.1 million, the group would have net income of $1.2 million. As a nonprofit, the group would have to invest the money back into the business or donate it.

A group called Green Relief, which hopes to run a dispensary in Sanford, estimates its price at $400 an ounce. With 800 patients next year, the group hopes to sell $1.9 million worth of marijuana. Its payroll would be $581,460, leaving $730,040 in net income.

The groups that want to operate in southern Maine say they plan to invest $300,000 to $1.75 million to start their businesses, if they win licenses.

Some would grow marijuana at the dispensary site, while others would have separate cultivation operations in more rural parts of the state.

None of the groups knows for sure how much business it will get. The estimates for the first full year range from about 250 to 1,200 patients for a dispensary in Cumberland County or York County. Patients must have a qualifying illness, such as cancer or glaucoma, and a doctor’s recommendation, then register with the state to become a dispensary customer.

State law allows each patient to buy as much as 2.5 ounces every 10 days, although most patients aren’t expected to buy that much.

The Northeast Patients Group, led by the operators of a well-established dispensary in Berkeley, Calif., has a more conservative view of the market than most.

It estimates that Maine will have more than 1,000 registered medical marijuana patients within 12 months of the dispensaries’ opening, and more than 5,000 within five years. Ultimately, the state could have five patients for every 1,000 residents, it says.

If it wins the Cumberland County license, the group expects to have about 280 patients at its Portland dispensary in the first 12 months. The average patient will buy about 1.5 ounces of the medication each month at $340 an ounce, it says.

Unlike most applicants, Northeast expects to lose money this fiscal year. It projects sales of $1.7 million in the year beginning July 1, 2011, along with payroll and management expenses of less than $300,000.

The group said it expects a net income of $285,868 next year, and nearly $620,000 the following year. It also said it would donate $1.1 million to charitable groups in its second full year of operation.

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

[email protected]



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