Releaf Magazine
6Dec/131

Warwick consulting firm gets initial OK to evaluate potential R.I. medical marijuana patients

Jessica Cotton is the owner of B&B Consulting, first firm in Rhode Island that will exclusively make recommendations for medical marijuana licenses

PROVIDENCE — A Warwick consulting firm has received initial approval from the Health Department to become the first business in Rhode Island to provide assistance to patients seeking to join the state’s growing medical marijuana program.

B&B Consulting LLC, at 300 Toll Gate Rd., got the OK last week in a report from the Committee of the Health Services Council to establish an organized ambulatory care facility that will focus on medical marijuana.

Dr. Michael Fine, director of the Health Department, accepted the committee’s recommendation and gave initial approval to the application.

Jessica Cotton, the firm’s sole owner and administrator, said she thinks that B&B Consulting is the first medical marijuana consulting firm in the nation to gain approval from a state health department. She said that two doctors will make recommendations for patients to gain entry into the medical marijuana program.

“This is the only thing we are doing is medical marijuana evaluations,” Cotton said. “We are all ready. We are all set up.”

She hopes to get final Health Department approval by month’s end.

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, welcomed B&B Consulting. She said too many patients are turned down by doctors at the Providence Veterans Administration Medical Center and at community health centers. She said the doctors cannot recommend medical marijuana because the hospitals and centers are funded with federal dollars.

Under federal law, marijuana remains an illegal drug that is in the same category as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.

She also said that both doctors have a deep knowledge about the drug’s benefits in dealing with certain medical problems. She supported the B&B application to the Health Department.

“Patients would prefer to go to a doctor who knows something about cannabis,” she said.

The two physicians are Dr. Timothy Spurrell and Dr. Thomas Robert Rocco Jr., who will serve as medical director at B&B Consulting. He is licensed in Rhode Island and Wisconsin and board-certified in general surgery.

According to the National Practitioner Data Bank Self Query that is included in the Health Department report, a $150,000 settlement was reached a year ago involving patient allegations that Rocco had performed “a negligent lymph node biopsy which resulted in suprascapular nerve damage and ongoing pain and suffering.” In November 2011, the report states that Rocco’s clinical privileges were reduced at Newport Hospital “as a result of a quality care investigation.”

Spurrell is a licensed physician in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Texas and Maryland and is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

The doctors, under state law, are required to establish and maintain medical records with qualifying patients for the medical marijuana program. They also must diagnose or confirm the diagnosis that qualifies them for marijuana use.

The state allows marijuana to be used to be used by certified patients for relief from chronic pain, cancer, HIV, AIDS, severe nausea and other ailments.

Once the recommendation is made, the patient goes to the Health Department where a final determination is made on whether the patient can be certified to join the medical marijuana program.

Cotton said that the doctors, who will work two days a week, have evaluated and recommended about 900 people for the medical marijuana program in the past 1½ years. She said that she and her husband, Bill, a patient in the program who suffers from multiple sclerosis, recruited the doctors for the firm.

B&B Consulting’s application to the Health Department also mentions that the firm will be seeking referrals from the Rhode Island Free Clinic and community health centers.

Andrea Bagnall-Degos, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said that 546 doctors in Rhode Island had made recommendations for patients to join the medical marijuana program. She also said that 89 doctors from Massachusetts and Connecticut have done the same for Rhode Island patients.

B&B projects evaluating 647 people the first year; 1,555 in year two; and 1,600 in year three. There will be a $200 charge for the initial medical visit, $140 for consultant services and $50 for a follow-up visit. The services are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other health care insurance plans.

Rhode Island is one of 20 states, and the District of Columbia, with a medical marijuana program. The state’s first two dispensaries opened last spring. A third is expected to open early next year in Warwick.

State law permits only three dispensaries, otherwise known as compassion centers. Today, there are more than 6,700 medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island, a jump of nearly 25 percent from last spring.

-

Via http://www.providencejournal.com/

Post to Twitter

1Dec/130

Summit medical marijuana facility submits new application for dispensary in Warwick

 

Touring the proposed Summit Medical Compassion Center at 380 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, are, from left, Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Ward 3 councilwoman; Realtor Donald Morash Jr.; Summit security team members Napolean “Nappy” Brito and Robert A. McQueeney; and Armand C. Spaziano, Summit’s president and board chairman.

 

WARWICK — It’s been a big year for medical marijuana in Rhode Island.

The first two dispensaries, also known as compassion centers, opened last spring in Providence and Portsmouth and began selling high-grade marijuana to registered patients suffering from ailments such as HIV-AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, stress and eating disorders.

They have more than twice as many customers as they were hoping to land after their first year of business.

At the same time, the number of patients in the program has jumped nearly 25 percent in the past seven months, to slightly fewer than 7,000 patients.

Now, the third and final dispensary, Summit Medical Compassion Center Inc., plans to open a large-scale operation in Warwick that will feature a store and cultivation center in an industrial area off Route 95.

Summit has submitted an application to the state Department of Health with more than 300 pages of documents that provide details about the dispensary’s location, business plan, hiring and projections for the next three years. It isn’t Summit’s first proposal.

In 2011, Governor Chafee refused to issue registration certificates to Slater, Greenleaf and Summit for more than a year. Slater and Greenleaf were not fazed by the restrictions, and they pressed ahead with their dispensaries.

Summit had submitted an ambitious proposal to be the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the state. That plan was so big that Chafee worried that Summit could be the subject of a raid by federal authorities. At his urging, the General Assembly passed legislation that limited the number of plants a dispensary could grow to 99 mature plants and 51 seedlings. They also can have a maximum of 1,500 ounces of marijuana ready for sale.

Summit seemed to hesitate, and its plans to open a dispensary and cultivation center on Post Road and Strawberry Field Road fell through.

But two months ago, Summit submitted a new application for a registration certificate. Its projections are more modest than its initial proposal. The application projects that the operation will have 1,105 patients after the first year and 1,610 by the end of year two. During that same time period, revenues from marijuana sales are expected to jump from $3.1 million nearly $4.1 million.

Summit’s staff also is expected to increase from 19 to 39 employees.

Camille Vella-Wilkinson, a Warwick city councilor who represents Ward 3, home of the Summit marijuana operation, is a big supporter of the new business. She said that she attended several state Health Department hearings and learned that medical marijuana was a safer alternative than prescription drugs. She also said that marijuana was cheaper than having patients “pilling up.”

She also said that Summit will bring good-paying jobs, many that pay more than $50,000 a year, to the city.

“I’m absolutely in favor of this,” Vella-Wilkinson said.

The center will lease two buildings with plenty of space. The cultivation center, which will be used to grow marijuana, is at 66 Illinois Ave. and covers 9,660 square feet, while the compassion center, or retail store where the cannabis will be sold, is at 380 Jefferson Blvd., Unit E-2, which has 7,285 square feet of space.

The cavernous buildings with high ceilings are about 500 yards apart, on opposite sides of Jefferson Boulevard.

The sole financier of Summit is Cuttino Mobley, the former University of Rhode Island and NBA basketball star, who made tens of millions of dollars during his 11-year career as an NBA player.

Mobley is providing the dispensary with a $3.5-million line of credit with an annual interest rate of 6 percent that will not commence until the second year of Summit’s operation. He also will kick in $500,000 that will not be repaid.

According to Summit’s proposal, $2.8 million of the credit line will be used to build out the compassion and cultivation centers.

In terms of square footage and projections, Summit, with 16,945 square feet for its compassion and cultivation centers, will be the largest of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Under state law, only three dispensaries are permitted in Rhode Island.

Armand C. Spaziano, Summit’s president and chairman of its board of directors, said “it’s not the goal to be the biggest. The goal is to be efficient and safe.”

The security team includes Napolean “Nappy” Brito, a retired Providence police officer who ran the department’s Bureau of Criminal Identification; and Robert A. McQueeney, a retired state police captain, who serves on Summit’s board of directors.

Summit plans to overhaul the buildings that will house the compassion and cultivation centers this winter and open for business a few months after the new year. Andrea Bagnall-Degos, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said that a public comment session during which residents can express concerns about the business ends on Dec. 13.

Based on those comments, the department can recommend changes and schedule an on-site inspection. The operating license will be issued after the state police inspect the buildings to make sure a proper security system is in place.

Right now, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, at 1 Corliss St., in Providence, and Greenleaf Compassionate Care, at 1637 West Main Rd., in Portsmouth, are open for business.

Slater’s retail store and cultivation center are housed in the same building, which is 13,750 square feet. Greenleaf grows and sells marijuana in a modest 2,800-square-foot post-and-beam building that serves patients on Aquidneck Island.

Slater was the first to open in mid-April; Greenleaf launched its business in early June.

So far, sales have been booming at each dispensary. At the outset, Slater officials were hoping to have 550 registered patients within the first six months and 1,000 patients by May 31, 2014. Greenleaf was optimistic that it could quickly attract 200 patients.

Figures from the Health Department show Slater now has 2,277 patients and Greenleaf has reached 546 patients, far surpassing the projections.

Chris Reilly, Slater’s spokesman, said the numbers reflect the demand that patients have for high-grade medicinal marijuana.

“Our staff is working hard every day to help registered patients get high-quality medicine in a safe environment,” he said. “It’s an enormous responsibility to care for people suffering from serious and often terminal illnesses. We are proud to play a small part in helping improve the lives of these folks.”

Added Seth Bock, co-owner of Greenleaf: “Patients seem satisfied with the spectrum of unique varieties we offer, as well as the excellent quality and relative affordability of the medicine and products we sell.”

Bock also said that Greenleaf has launched a “collaborative epidemiological study” with Miriam Hospital in Providence to determine which varieties of the marijuana plant best treat certain ailments.

 

The advent of the two dispensaries has resulted in a surge of patients in the state medical marijuana program. Today, there are 6,720 patients in the program, a 24.8-percent jump from the 5,386 who were registered just seven months ago. At the same time, the number of registered caregivers, who grow marijuana and provide the drug to as many as five patients, has declined from 3,589 to 3,513.

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said the two compassion centers have been well-received and she’s pleased to see that Greenleaf has dropped its prices of marijuana to less than $250. She said many patients are on fixed incomes and can’t afford to pay $300 to $400 a month for an ounce.

“Patients have been very happy with the compassion centers,” she said. “But the prices can be challenging.”

Slater offers edible marijuana products such as cookies, brownies and flavored lozenges. Greenleaf hopes to have a marijuana baking kitchen up and running before year’s end, and Summit has similar plans. Proponents of medical marijuana say it’s more effective and safer to ingest the medicine than to smoke it.

Greenleaf and Summit also want to start delivery service for patients who are too ill to travel to the dispensaries. All three offer other services such as pain management, educational material, nutrition, yoga and Reiki.

Slater does not make deliveries.

Rhode Island is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana. All six New England states have passed laws that permit registered patients to use the drug to cope with a variety of ailments, but so far, only Rhode Island (2); Vermont (4); and Maine (8) have opened dispensaries for patients to buy marijuana.

Massachusetts is expected to have as many as 35 marijuana centers next year, while Connecticut officials predict that three to five may open in 2014.

Maine has more than 16,000 patients in its medical marijuana program, far more than the other five New England states, and Rhode Island is second with more than 6,700 patients.

Mobley, the former NBA star, has made big waves in both states where he starred on the basketball court before turning pro. He attended Maine Central Institute, a prep school basketball powerhouse, before he enrolled at URI.

Aside from providing $4 million to Summit, Mobley has financed four of the dispensaries in Maine with a $1.6-million line of credit over eight years. The loan was made with an annual interest rate of 8.5 percent.

Could the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island be far behind?

In 2012, voters approved the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. And, on Nov. 5, voters in Portland, Maine, overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana for residents 21 and older, making the city the first on the East Coast to OK recreational cannabis.

Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence, who has introduced legalization legislation the past two years, plans to try again in 2014. She said that prohibition isn’t working and permitting marijuana for those 21 and older would result in greater regulation.

“I think it gains traction every year,” she said. “I’m sure that we will move closer, but it’s an election year and it does tend to make my colleagues more hesitant.”

-

Via http://www.providencejournal.com/

Post to Twitter

9May/120

The wheels on the bus….

Medical Marijuana Vote Set for Today

 

Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News Editor

Members of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare today are expected to vote on legislation that would allow medical marijuana compassion centers to open Rhode Island.

The House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and the Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence). The bills amend “The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.”

The General Assembly first approved legislation to create compassion centers in 2009, but Governor Chafee ordered a temporary halt to the licensing process last year when the federal government suggested it might begin targeting the centers or patients using their services.

But as a result of an agreement reached earlier this year between legislative leaders and the governor, Slater and Perry were given the green light to continue to move compassion centers forward. The bill would clear the way to allow three compassion centers to open while protecting them from being shut down or raided by federal agents.

Chafee Will Sign Bill

Governor Chafee, who faced criticism from those in the medical marijuana community for deferring to the federal government, has indicated he will sign Slater and Perry's legislation into law if it is approved by the General Assembly.

“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy,” Chafee said earlier this year. “I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit.”

Bill Regulates Limits on Growing Amount

The legislation will allow the Department of Health to regulate limits on the amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess, since the magnitude of the marijuana and the resulting income it generates for privately run compassion centers appears to be a key element of concern for federal officials. It also allows registered patients or caregivers who grow up to their allotted maximums, but do not need the entire amount for themselves or their patients, to sell the excess to a compassion center, as long as the limits of the grower and the purchasing center are not exceeded. That provision is designed to address concerns about the illegal sale of excess marijuana.

“This is a good compromise that strengthens the safety of compassion centers," Slater said earlier this year "We just want patients to get some relief, soon. While we believe the existing law is good, this change will make it better by making our centers less of an issue for the federal government. Nobody in Rhode Island would want to see patients get caught up in some federal raid or lose access to their medicine, and if these changes further minimize that issue, they are positive for patients."

The three centers that were already approved by the Department of Health after a public bidding process to be licensed will be able to operate under the new limits, so it is expected the centers will be able to open quickly upon passage and enactment of the legislation.

“Our main concern is getting compassion centers up and running for the many suffering patients who still have no legal way to obtain their prescription medicine,” said Senator Perry. “It’s been three years now since we approved compassion centers. That’s a long time for patients to wait for relief from pain and illness. We already have three legitimate organizations that have been approved and are ready and willing to serve Rhode Island’s patients and the quicker we move on these amendments, the less time Rhode Island’s sick and dying will spend suffering."

Post to Twitter

1Dec/111

A little peep from New England

Chafee files petition to reclassify marijuana

This has failed before. Linc is no champion either. -UA
By MEGAN HALL

PROVIDENCE, RI (WRNI) - Governor Lincoln Chafee is teaming up with the governor of Washington in an effort to change the way the federal government classifies marijuana. They're calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to consider the drug medically beneficial.

In a telephone conference call, Governor Chafee and Governor Chris Gregoire said they've filed a petition to change marijuana from a schedule I drug,which means it has no accepted medical use, to a schedule II drug, which means it could be sold in pharmacies.

The two governors say they're filing the petition out of frustration- they've both halted medical marijuana dispensary programs in their states because of letters from U.S. Attorneys, warning that the stores are subject to federal raids.

Governor Gregoire says she hopes the DEA will handle the request quickly. A similar petition was rejected this year, nine years after the initial filing.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you

Post to Twitter

7Nov/111

no kids allowed (unless you’re a patient)

Legalization of medical marijuana won’t encourage teenagers to smoke more: study

Brown University research sees no rise in teens lighting up

BY Rheana Murray
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t push more teens to light up, new research shows.

A study from Brown University compared rates of marijuana use in Massachusetts to those in Rhode Island – where medical use of the drug was legalized in 2006.

Findings suggested the legislation has no influence on teens’ drug habits.

Dr. Esther Choo, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the university’s medical school and a physician at Rhode Island Hospital, said researchers selected the liberal-leaning Northeastern spots based on their similarities.

“We wanted to pair these two states because they have so much in common culturally and geographically,” Dr. Esther Choo told Time.com.

Teenagers surveyed were no more likely to smoke marijuana in Rhode Island, post-legalization, than they were in Massachusetts.

About 30 percent of kids reported using marijuana at least once in the previous month – legalization or not, Time.com reported.

Choo pointed out that it’s not young people who are likely to benefit from medical marijuana.

“Whether they are taking it for pain or for vomiting control or appetite, this is not a group we think of as superinspiring for young people to take up their drug patter,” he said to Time.com. “It’s an older population that is generally very ill.”

Choo’s research backs up a similar study from 2005, in which a psychology professor from the State University of New York found that marijuana use in California didn’t jump after the state legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.

Between 1996 – when California passed the law – and 2004, the number of students who admitted to smoking pot in the previous month dived 47 percent.

The trend was consistent among other states the study monitored.

“I’m delighted to see that their work confirms my previous report that medical marijuana laws do not increase teen use,” said Mitch Earleywine, who wrote the analysis.

Post to Twitter

25Jul/111

Rhode Island Sounds a lot Like Arizona…….

Legal Marijuana in Arizona, but Not for the Sellers
By MARC LACEY July 22, 2011 nytimes.com

We elect these people to make a decision....then they do NOTHING.....-UA

PHOENIX — Marijuana is known to cause red eyes, gales of laughter and the munchies. In Arizona, add another side effect: utter confusion.

Voters narrowly approved a ballot initiative last November allowing medical marijuana in the state, but the result has been just the opposite of an orderly system of dispensing cannabis to the truly sick. Rather, police raids, surreptitious money transfers and unofficial pot clubs have followed passage of the new law, creating a chaotic situation not far removed from the black-market system that has always existed.

“There’s confusion,” said Ross Taylor, who owns CannaPatient, a newly formed company that helps patients get the medical certification required to receive state-issued medical marijuana cards. “There are a lot of unsure people, and not just because of what happened to me.”

The police raided Mr. Taylor’s home in June, one of several instances in which the authorities in the state have showed signs of resisting carrying out the new law, which took effect at the start of the year.

Gov. Jan Brewer — who campaigned against the law, then signed it with reluctance — said in May that the state, which has issued more than 7,500 cards to medical marijuana patients, would delay issuing licenses to marijuana dispensaries, as the law requires. Instead, she filed suit in federal court seeking a ruling on whether the state’s medical marijuana law conflicted with federal prohibitions on marijuana. So the patients have their cards permitting them to buy marijuana in Arizona, but no official place to do so.

Arizona is not just another state when it comes to marijuana. More Mexican-grown marijuana enters this state than any other, according to federal government data. On June 8, the authorities recovered more than 1,200 pounds from an S.U.V. that led them on a 20-mile chase through dirt roads near the border.

The police operation that took place the next day in Gilbert, a community outside Phoenix, netted a considerably smaller haul: about two ounces. In that case, the police executed a search warrant on Mr. Taylor’s house after getting a tip from the cable man. The officers, Mr. Taylor said, did not appear interested in his medical marijuana card, which permits him to grow up to a dozen marijuana plants in his home or obtain up to 2.5 ounces from a caregiver or a dispensary.

The police said they were pursuing those taking advantage of the new marijuana law.

The law does not permit the sale of marijuana outside of nonprofit dispensaries. But because the state has yet to approve any such outlets to sell marijuana, other ways of getting the drug are being tried.

Last month, the police raided the offices of a group in Tempe that was growing marijuana and selling it to cardholders. Garry Ferguson, founder of the organization, the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group, told reporters that he understood the law to allow the sale of marijuana from one cardholder to another.

Unofficial cannabis clubs, not mentioned in the law, are also emerging. They purport to offer free marijuana to cardholders, albeit for a membership fee. For now, they are unregulated.

“In lieu of a regulated industry, we’re now creating an environment in which patients are growing their own with limited oversight, and these private clubs of questionable legality are popping up,” said Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, which led the medical marijuana campaign.

Ms. Brewer, a Republican, recently lamented “the dreadful situation” the state now finds itself in with marijuana legal for some.

Marijuana users consider the uncertainty dreadful as well, with some fearful that applying for cards might lead to police scrutiny. “I have friends who are afraid to get cards,” said Brad Scalf, 55, a disabled veteran. “I figured that when I’m smoking out on the back porch and the neighbors complain, I don’t have to worry. It’s like a get out of jail free card.”

The state’s legal case has been assigned to the same federal judge who found parts of Arizona’s immigration law to be unconstitutional. In that dispute, Arizona argued against the idea that the state should be hamstrung by federal immigration law. In this instance, the state seems to be seeking a ruling that federal law ought to prevail.

“The state has been beating the drum on states’ rights, but all of a sudden it has taken a 180-degree turn,” said Ken Frakes, a lawyer for the Rose Law Group, which represents a number of marijuana dispensary applicants.

Ms. Brewer said the decision to go to court was made to protect state employees from prosecution after Dennis K. Burke, the United States attorney for Arizona, sent a letter to state officials warning that the federal government still considered marijuana an illegal drug and would go after those who ran large marijuana production operations. Mr. Burke has subsequently said he had no intention of prosecuting state employees.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey held up carrying out his state’s medical marijuana law, one of 17 across the country, over similar concerns, but he announced this week that he would allow the program to go ahead.

In Arizona, some of the cannabis clubs are operating surreptitiously to avoid the notice of law enforcement. But not the 2811 Club, named for the provision of the law allowing state-approved marijuana patients to share marijuana among themselves.

Allan Sobol, the club’s marketing manager, has invited reporters in and offered instruction on the ins and outs of the new law to a group of Phoenix police officers. Everyone who enters must have a state-issued card, and no smoking is allowed on the premises, to prevent people from driving under the influence.

The dimly lit club offers classes and has computers and books available to research the many plant varieties, and comfortable chairs to enable patients to chat among themselves. It is the marijuana counter, though, that brings people in.

Club members, who pay a $25 application fee, also must pay $75 every time they walk through the door. Once inside, they are entitled to about 3 grams of marijuana, which is grown by other cardholders and donated to the club. Those growers, according to the law, can be compensated only for the cost of their supplies. On a recent afternoon, there were a number of varieties available, including Master Kush, Blue Dream and Granddaddy Purple.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you come in,” said Mr. Sobol, who has emerged as a spokesman for the embattled industry, but says he tried marijuana for the first time last week when he ate a salad made with marijuana dressing. “We want people to come in with dignity and get this medicine that is now legal.”

Mr. Sobol said he is convinced that the club, which is planning to expand throughout the Phoenix area, is on solid legal ground. But the club does not comply with the strict regulatory requirements for dispensaries, which has prompted state officials to order an inquiry. Mr. Sobol said that given the uncertainty surrounding the program, he would be foolhardy not to look over his shoulder. “We have to be concerned,” he said. “I have lawyers on call. They may arrest me, but if that day comes and they come barging through the front door, I’m convinced they’ll never convict me.”

Post to Twitter

14Jul/111

NBA money is green too…..

Ex-NBA star's entry into Maine Medical pot program triggers lawsuit

All this rhetoric means more patients will wait even longer for meds. This program is not about money, it is about helping sick people.  It's a shame most people only see the dollar sign. -UA

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff
Posted July 13, 2011, at 2:48 p.m.

The California-based Berkeley Patients Group, which backed efforts to open four of Maine’s eight licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, is suing Maine-based Northeast Patients Group and its director, Rebecca DeKeuster, alleging she breached the terms of her employment by using inside information to forge a deal with another investor.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, grows out of DeKuester’s resignation in February from her position as Berkeley’s New England expansion director. The resignation came at or around the same time she signed a letter of intent to partner with a Rhode Island-based Mobley Pain Management and Wellness Center.

The center is managed by former NBA player Cuttino Mobley, whose group now is expected to fund the startup of four nonprofit dispensaries slated to open this fall in Thomaston, Portland, Kennebec County and the Bangor area, according to a state official.

Catherine Cobb, who oversees the state’s medical marijuana program for the Maine Department of Health and Human services, said Wednesday that DeKeuster and Northeast Patients Group are now refining a business agreement with Mobley. Cobb said she expects to see a finalized financial proposal later this week.

In a letter of intent dated Feb. 23, Mobley’s group agreed to provide $2 million in financing and a $100,000 bridge loan to fund the Maine operations.

The Berkeley lawsuit charges DeKeuster with breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and seeks $632,000 in lost investments and related costs.

According to the court filing, Berkeley Patients Group, which has been doing business in California for 11 years, provided DeKuester and Northeast Patients Group with essential support that resulted in Northeast Patients Group being awarded contracts to run a marijuana growing operation and the four storefront dispensaries. That support included “substantial specialized knowledge, trade secrets, confidential information” and other operational backing, as well as DeKuester’s $110,000 salary and other financial “credits, expenses and advances,” according to the documents.

Rather than promoting the interests of her employers, DeKeuster “blocked and frustrated” the licensing process and did not adequately disclose her activities to the Berkeley Patients Group board, according to the court documents.

On Feb. 24, DeKeuster resigned as an employee and board member of Berkeley Patients Group. On or about the same day, she entered into a written agreement with “the competing business group,” according to the filing.

“She essentially resigned her position and took [Northeast Patients Group] in a different direction with a different group,” said attorney Chuck Remmel of the Portland law firm Kelly, Remmel and Zimmerman, who represents Berkeley Patients Group in the lawsuit.

Neither DeKeuster nor Northeast Patients Group board chair Daniel Walker, an attorney with the Preti Flaherty law firm in Augusta, was available for questioning on Wednesday. Walker issued a statement in which he declined to comment on the assertions in the complaint.

“Suffice it to say that we and our clients have a much different view of the underlying facts and are prepared to present our case and counterclaims in court,” Walker said in the statement.

A call to Mobley’s personal attorney on Wednesday was not returned.

Mobley, 35, retired in 2008 from his 11-year NBA career because of a congenital heart condition. He attended Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield as a postgraduate student and athlete in 1992-1993.

Documents on file with Rhode Island’s Medical Marijuana Program show the Mobley Pain Management and Wellness Center as the sole financial backer of the Summit Compassion Center, a medical marijuana dispensary to be located outside of Providence, RI.

A spokeswoman for the state of Rhode Island said Wednesday that the state’s plan to open three dispensaries is currently “on hold” due to concerns about conflicting state and federal laws regarding the growing, selling and possession of marijuana.

A statement on the Summit Compassion Center application reads: “In large part due to his own personal medical experiences, and having been exposed to various medical conditions negatively affecting those close to him, Mr. Mobley is excited to embark on a second career that will be very personal and rewarding to him — helping patients and-or their families in the area of pain and wellness management [the fastest growing area in the primary care medical field today].”

Cobb said her primary concern is that the proposal uphold the nonprofit structure of the Northeast Patients Group business plan.

Cobb said she does not expect the lawsuit to disrupt the opening of Northeast Patient Group’s licensed marijuana dispensaries. The organization recently started growing marijuana in Thomaston for sale at its dispensaries; Cobb said that crop likely will be ready to market by early September.

Post to Twitter