AUGUSTA — Central Maine’s medical marijuana dispensary will be in downtown Hallowell, and its operators hope to open it by the end of October.

Northeast Patients Group signed a lease in late August to occupy the second floor of 115 Water St., above The Liberal Cup brew pub.

The nonprofit organization, which has licenses to operate four of the state’s eight initial dispensaries, will also put its offices in the building, Executive Director Becky DeKeuster said Wednesday.

Mayor Charlotte Warren and City Manager Mike Starn said they met with DeKeuster in early September. She told them Northeast had a lease with Mattson Development and soon would start renovations on the space.

There was no review by City Council or the Planning Board, city officials said, because the use meets the city’s zoning requirements.

Warren characterized the siting of the dispensary in Hallowell as a landlord-tenant deal between private parties.

“It’s a permissible use for that area,” Warren said. “It’s not really anything that they’ve had to do with the city. It’s more she’s rented a property from a landlord who has property to rent.”

The property is in Hallowell’s downtown and business district, where retail and business and professional offices are among the permissible uses.

DeKeuster said she looks forward to joining a vibrant downtown community.

“It’s centrally located for our patients, and we have a good relationship with the city,” she said. “The town itself was very welcoming and open to the idea of us locating there.”

The space is about 2,400 square feet, enough space for both the dispensary and possible associated services, such as acupuncture or counseling, DeKeuster said. There’s a wheelchair accessible entrance from the parking lot in the back.

Each entrance will be double-secured, requiring both a card swipe and code entry, and there will be video surveillance. Traffic in the area and “eyes on the street” could also help with security, DeKeuster said.

Starn said he voiced concerns about people under the influence of marijuana driving in the area, but DeKeuster reassured him.

“She assured us that they have a process for evaluating clients and making sure that they behave responsibly,” he said.

Warren said she has no opinion either way about having a dispensary in the city.

“All of that has been decided by our state and our state leaders and by our voters,” she said. “We are a community that welcomes business, and this is no different.”

Landlord Kevin Mattson said he had been working with Northeast Patients Group for months, first trying to get them into a building at 10 Middle Road in Augusta.

But the Augusta City Council limited such facilities to the city’s medical district, and the Planning Board excluded the Middle Road property from an expansion of the medical district after neighbors objected. Northeast and Mattson withdrew their application.

Mattson said he has never had any concern about leasing to a dispensary. Even as Northeast sets up its space on Water Street, Mattson Development is moving its offices from Middle Road to the third floor above the dispensary.

“My take on this is, it’s a legal use,” Mattson said. “It’s no different to me from a commercial pharmacy. I wouldn’t have any issue leasing to a pharmacy that’s dispensing narcotics.”

Geoff Houghton, co-owner of the building with Mattson and owner of The Liberal Cup, takes a similar view.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “The more people come into Hallowell, the better.

“I hope they’re hungry and they come downstairs.”

Lynn Irish, owner of Whippersnappers fabric store nearby, said she doesn’t object and doesn’t expect much opposition in Hallowell.

“What’s going to happen?” she said. “Is somebody with cancer going to be dangerous to you on the street?”

David Young, who owns property on Water Street, said he doesn’t know what to expect because medical marijuana is relatively new in Maine.

He said it could have a positive or a negative effect on the city — or not much of an impact at all.

But Young does think the issue should have been aired at City Hall before it was decided.

“It’s being pushed on us,” he said. “We’ve got to accept it. We should have had a lot more feedback on it, I think.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

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