AUGUSTA — A financing agreement has been finalized between the holder of half of Maine’s medical marijuana dispensary licenses and a former professional basketball player.

The $2 million agreement between Northeast Patients Group and an organization led by former NBA player — and former Maine Central Institute player — Cuttino Mobley comes as Northeast faces a lawsuit from its former California-based backer.

The litigation and the deal with Mobley that sparked it have big implications for Maine’s fledgling medical marijuana industry: Northeast holds exclusive state licenses to operate dispensaries in Maine’s most populous markets: Portland, Kennebec County and the Bangor area, as well as Thomaston.

Catherine Cobb, director of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, provided an email to the Kennebec Journal saying an agreement between Northeast and Mobley was in place.

“The (Northeast) board has conceptually agreed to the terms,” Northeast’s lawyer, Augusta-based Daniel Walker, wrote in the email to Cobb. “We are now translating those terms into updated budget documents and a summary of the term sheet, which we will get you (Friday).”

Cobb said Friday afternoon the term sheet likely would arrive later in the day but would not be publicly available until Monday. She said her expectation was that the finalized deal would stay very close to a February letter of intent.

Mobley’s deal

Terms outlined in the Feb. 23 letter of intent say Mobley will provide Northeast with $2 million, in four increments, for the exclusive right to supply Northeast dispensaries with drinks, edibles, topical solutions and alcohol-based herbal extractions called tinctures.

Mobley — whose 11-year career with four NBA teams ended in 2008 after he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart defect — also will consult on security, cultivation, operations, marketing, quality assurance and public relations, among other things, the letter reads.

Mobley also negotiated a repayment schedule that includes an 18 percent annual interest rate, effective a year after an agreement is finalized. After that, interest is to be paid monthly.

“My initial reaction is that sounds like something where people are trying to make money instead of helping patients,” said Jesse Stout, 27, the former founding executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

Mobley has a “first priority security interest” in all assets of Northeast should it default on the loan.

If the deal goes into effect and aids Northeast in opening its dispensaries, it wouldn’t be the first foray into medical marijuana for Mobley. He’s also invested in Rhode Island’s fledgling industry — on much friendlier terms.

But it would be the first time Mobley has seen a marijuana dispensary he funded open for business.

Much invested, no return

According to paperwork filed with Rhode Island, the Summit Medical Compassion Center backed by Mobley won one of three licenses to sell medical marijuana there.

Mobley supplied $4 million: $500,000 as an “equity contribution” that doesn’t have to be paid back; $3.5 million as a line of credit, to be repaid beginning after two years at 6 percent annual interest.

Mobley’s major investment into medical marijuana has yet to bear fruit in the Ocean State.

According to Ann Marie Beardsworth, the spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health, there were 3,689 patients enrolled in the state’s program as of last week.

But no compassion center — the equivalent of a Maine state-licensed dispensary — has opened.

The program was put on hold by Gov. Lincoln Chafee after he received a letter from a United States attorney saying the centers could violate federal law.

Summit’s state-filed predictions for growth and revenue exponentially exceed those of the other two facilities whose licenses were granted.

In its application, Summit told Rhode Island officials that, by its third year of operation, the center would employ 80 full-time employees, serve 8,000 patients and collect $23 million in revenue.

Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center Inc., slated for Portsmouth, R.I.; and The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, in Providence, were far less hopeful in their third years.

Predictions from Greenleaf’s application say only 12.5 full-time jobs would result, 533 patients be served and less than $1.2 million in revenue gained.

The Slater numbers are rosier, but nowhere near Summit: 32 employees serving 1,500 patients, generating less than $4 million in revenue.

The man who co-founded a Rhode Island group that keyed passage of that state’s medical marijuana law scratches his head at Summit’s projections — even though the Mobley-backed compassion center would be in Warwick, Rhode Island’s second-largest city.

“I just don’t see the millions of dollars in revenue they’re projecting here,” Stout said. “I disagree with any estimates or projections that you’re going to make $20 million doing this.

“Summit is the outlier,” Stout said. “The figures are either unrealistic or just not likely to happen.”

Beardsworth said location was a key factor impressing the committee that offered its approvals in January.

But, she said, Summit’s projections seem possible.

“The (selection) committee didn’t feel those numbers were out of a reasonable estimate range,” she said.

Maine implications

As of Wednesday, Maine had 1,807 patients enrolled in its medical marijuana program, according to John Thiele, medical marijuana program manager for the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.

State documents in Maine show Northeast expects to have more than 1,100 patients at its four locations and earn more than $7 million in revenue in its second year of operation here.

But since none of the four Northeast dispensaries has opened, many are skeptical. The state’s other four — in Frenchville, Biddeford, Auburn and Ellsworth — have.

Northeast has only an up-and-running cultivation site, in Thomaston, which was given the go-ahead to grow by Thiele in June.

“They’re not open now. There’s not a dime coming through the door,” said Charlie Wynott, the executive director of the Westbrook-based Maine Medical Marijuana Patients Center.

Wynott bristled at the disclosure of Mobley’s involvement.

“All I can say is, ‘I told you so.’ I knew outside money was coming in from the beginning with Northeast Patients Group from Berkeley,” he said. “The state refused to look at it that way. As long as they got their $15,000 per dispensary, they didn’t care.”

Wynott said his organization has virtually stopped recommending dispensaries to patients seeking help to control pain — he recommends growing your own.

If you can’t, he said, you should get a trustworthy caregiver.

“I really want to know why the state is allowing this money from out of state, knowing it’s out-of-state,” Wynott said.

That’s because Cobb, speaking Thursday, said the law allows out-of-state funding for marijuana dispensaries.

“It is a Maine company and its principals are Maine residents,” she said. “It doesn’t mean the funding, or bank, needs to be in Maine. That would be overstepping our role.”

But Wynott isn’t satisfied.

“I’m totally upset about it and I think it should be Maine people serving Maine patients,” he said.

Berkeley Patients Group sued Augusta-based Northeast Patients Group and Executive Director Rebecca DeKeuster on July 6 in Cumberland County Superior Court, alleging DeKeuster used confidential information to strike the deal with Mobley without telling them about the talks while she served as Berkeley’s New England expansion director.

DeKeuster’s contract with Berkeley, submitted to the court, prohibits her from discussing company-related confidential information without Berkeley’s written consent.

That contract also bars her from competing for business with Berkeley for two years after she leaves Berkeley.

The lawsuit seeks repayment of $632,195 in loans from Berkeley to Northeast and asks the court to order DeKeuster, of Augusta, to leave Northeast.

Neither Mobley attorney Terry Fracassa, DeKeuster or Northeast lawyer Walker returned calls Friday from the Kennebec Journal.

Michael Shepherd — 621-5662

[email protected]


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