EAST WILTON – A Vienna couple whose plans include opening a dispensary in a two-story building on Route 2, has been selected by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to receive one of eight medical cannabis dispensary licenses in the state.
Timothy and Jennifer Smale’s Remedy Compassion Center received the highest score for their application to manage a dispensary in District 3, which includes the counties of Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford. The license will allow for growing and dispensing prepared marijuana to registered patients under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act overwhelmingly passed by voters last November.
“It’s a dream come true,” Tim Smale said today. “We’re honored and excited,” Jennifer Smale added. The Smales received a phone call at 9:15 this morning from Catherine Cobb, director of the state’s Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, who told them their application was the number one pick of six applicants vying for the District 3 dispensary location.
Cobb said today the Smale’s application scored well in their ability to demonstrate an extensive knowledge of operating a nonprofit, staff needs, record keeping and product quality control.
“They also had a good description of a security system; we thought the access was good and the experience needed to run a dispensary,” Cobb said.
“We told her (Cobb) that we hope to make her proud; it’s a great responsibility,” Smale said. The couple hope to open up the dispensary by the beginning of December and will eventually hire a staff of 12-15 people. That number could increase over time to 20 to 25 people employed for the dispensary’s operation, administrative staff, security, delivery, cultivating the marijuana, packaging and processing the medicine.
“We hope to hire talented, qualified people locally,” Smale said.
Part of Remedy Compassion Center’s high-scoring extensive application included a complete security plan including video cameras with offsite file storage, door and glass-break alarms, bright outside lighting, motion detectors, biometric fingerprint door locks, vaults and safes, and onsite security staff.
“We want patients and caregivers to feel as comfortable buying cannabis as they would buying aspirin at the local pharmacy,” Smale said.
Overall, three non-profit corporations for six of eight districts were selected by receiving high enough scores to dispense marijuana. A dispensary system has been established by DHHS to assist registered patients whose physicians believe they will benefit from the medical use of marijuana for certain serious medical conditions.
Patients suffering from a variety of conditions, who get a written recommendation from their doctor, can participate in the program and use an identification card to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a dispensary. Alternately, they can purchase seeds and grow up to six plants.
A total of 27 applications were reviewed by a four-member panel. They were scored based on criteria outlined in the application instructions, including their plan to operate as a non-profit corporation long-term, convenience of location, prior business experience, patient education, record-keeping, inventory, and quality control.
Those who obtained the highest scores in their districts and met the required minimum score of 70 were chosen. In District 1 (York County) and District 7 (Washington, Hancock counties), applicants all scored below the 70-point minimum so the application process will be reopened in those districts, according to the state’s Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services Web site.
The Smale’s application scored a 91, while the Northeast Patients Group came in second with 78 points. Interestingly, Northeast Patients Group did received the highest scores in four other districts for dispensaries to be located in Portland, Thomaston, Waterville and Hermon. The only other applicant from Franklin County, Ahead Care, came in fourth with 64 points for its District 3 application.
Ahead Care applicant Lucas Sirois of Farmington, and business-partners Chad Crandall, Alisa Sirois and Mike Danforth, received conditional approval from the Wilton Planning Board on June 3 to open a dispensary in the same building on Wilton Road as did the Smales.
Ahead Care also submitted two other applications for dispensaries in Farmingdale and Sanford, Districts 5 and 1. Its District 1 application scored the highest at 65 of five total applicants.
Alisa Sirios said today they are looking at modifying their application for a better score and reapplying for District 1 and possibly District 7 as well. Two areas they scored low in were nonprofit experience and dispensary work experience. Sirois said that’s tough because they’ve never left the state to gain marijuana dispensary experience.
The news their applications didn’t make it was tough after all the work that went into the application process.
The guys are devastated,” Sirios said today of Ahead Care’s partners. The deadline to reapply is Aug. 20. Sirois noted that most likely all the other applicants that weren’t chosen will be looking to reapply for the two districts still open, making the competition even tougher.
Remedy Compassion Center, however, scored the highest when it came to nonprofit and dispensary work experiences, staffing and record keeping.
The Smales worked for seven years for the nonprofit Independent Glass Association which is a trade organization that represents automotive glass and building materials shops. They also left Maine last August to gain experience working at medicinal marijuana dispensaries in California for seven months in the hope that Maine’s voters would pass the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.
Wanting to open as soon as possible, the Smales need to get various building permits such as a plumbing and electrical inspections and fulfill the state’s licensing requirements. Among those requirements is that any marijuana dispensed must first be grown from seed, which Smale said takes three to four months for plants to reach maturity.
The location of District 3’s dispensary in a rural area of the state is somewhat of a surprise. Cobb said the Smale’s would have scored a little higher if they’d proposed opening a dispensary in an area closer to a larger population base, such as in the Lewiston-Auburn area, as one of the applicants proposed.
“But we felt with one dispensary opening in Portland, 30 minutes from Lewiston and another opening in Augusta, 35 minutes from Lewiston, a dispensary was needed in other areas of the state,” she said.
Tim Smale said it “was a bit of a gamble” to submit one application for a location in Wilton. “We knew there would be more (dispensaries) in southern Maine and chose this area because it is more remote,” he said. He added they wanted to make it more convenient for patients in western Maine to get the medicine they need by not having to drive as far.
The Smales have first-hand knowledge of the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Tim Smale suffers from severe migraines which, if it weren’t for marijuana use, would leave him unable to function.
“Cannabis has given us our life back. Maybe we can have a part in helping other folks with debilitating medical conditions have a better quality of life too, without the shame and hassles we’ve had to go through trying to get a medicine that works,” he said.