AUGUSTA – Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services has approved new financing arrangements for the state’s largest medical marijuana nonprofit group, paving the way for the opening of four dispensaries for which Northeast Patients Group holds exclusive state licenses.

“I have had the opportunity to compare the changes that have occurred in financing and consulting services, and have decided that these changes do not diminish or otherwise alter the original plans for Maine’s operations,” Catherine Cobb, the director of DHHS’ Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, wrote in a letter dated Wednesday.

The letter, addressed to Northeast’s Executive Director Becky DeKeuster, was provided to the Kennebec Journal by Stephen Langsdorf, an Augusta attorney representing Northeast in a lawsuit against its former financial backer.

“DHHS, and particularly Cathy Cobb, have been clear and consistent in conveying their expectations of us and the importance of adhering to the policies in the Maine law,” DeKeuster said in a news release Friday. “As stated before, we look forward to this project adding meaningful jobs to the local economy.”

The Wellness and Pain Management Connection LLC — which formed Aug. 3 in Delaware — will lend Northeast $1.6 million over eight years at 8.5 percent annual interest. Northeast filed documents with DHHS on Aug. 4 announcing the agreement.

In those documents, The Farmacy Institute for Wellness and retired NBA basketball player Cuttino Mobley were named as partners in the limited-liabilty company.

The Farmacy Institute for Wellness is an offshoot of The Farmacy, the operator of three California dispensaries.

While it holds state licenses to operate half of Maine’s approved marijuana dispensaries — including those in its biggest markets — Northeast hasn’t opened a single one, while all other dispensaries in Maine are operational.

The release said Northeast Patients Group plans to open its Thomaston dispensary within the next two weeks, accompanying a cultivation site there that opened in June.

It said Portland and Augusta-area dispensaries will come online in October, with a Bangor-area site planned to open by mid-December.

Friday, DeKeuster said she was on the verge of signing a lease in Portland but wouldn’t reveal a location. She also wouldn’t reveal a municipality in Kennebec County.

Cobb said Friday that she expects lease agreements to be signed in Cumberland and Kennebec counties next week.

Northeast has significantly scaled back financial expectations it envisioned in its initial applications.

In 2010 Northeast projected a net gain of more than $426,000 while serving 691 patients in its first full year.

By July 20 of this year, Northeast thought it would lose more than $1.75 million serving 540 patients in its first full year of operation.

Northeast’s former backer, Berkeley Patients Group, sued Northeast and DeKeuster in Cumberland County Superior Court in July for repayment of more than $632,000 in loans.

Berkeley also says DeKeuster used proprietary information to negotiate a February deal with Mobley while employed as Berkeley’s New England expansion director.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5662 or at:

[email protected]