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March 28, 2012 | last updated March 29, 2012 11:48 am

Portland marijuana dispensary opens today

A medical marijuana dispensary in Maine's largest city opened its doors today. Becky DeKeuster, executive director of the Wellness Connection of Maine, formerly Northeast Patients Group, said this morning the group opened its 6,500-square-foot Portland dispensary at 685 Congress St., which will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DeKeuster said the Portland facility will be biggest of the group's four dispensaries and will employ six to eight people. It houses the group's administrative offices, in addition to having café style seating, Wi-Fi and additional rooms for other alternative healing and group education programs.

The group originally planned on opening its Portland facility in late January, but the permitting, licensing and inspection process for about $150,000 in renovations took longer than expected. "I think the end result is we have a beautiful facility [and] a secure facility," DeKeuster said.

DeKeuster expects to be serving up to 100 patients in the first month or two, based on call volumes, with steady growth coming thereafter. The group is currently working to ramp up supply, she said. To meet demand in the early going, patients may have their supply limited to below the state allowance, which allows patients to buy up to 2.5 ounces every 15 days.

Smokeable marijuana and marijuana tinctures will be among the dispensaries initial offerings, said DeKeuster, noting that edibles will eventually be made on site once the group gets a kitchen permitted, built and inspected. The dispensary will eventually host an open house to educate the public about its operations.

The Wellness Connection has already opened dispensaries in Hallowell and Thomaston, employing 20 people. DeKeuster said the group's fourth dispensary in Brewer should be open by late April or early May.

The group's $1.6 million in financing is being provided by a group that includes a former NBA player.

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