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Kittery raffled off 3 permits to open marijuana businesses. A company with big bucks won two of them

Buyers line up to purchase cannabis products at Theory Wellness on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in South Portland, Maine. Theory Wellness was one of the first two licensed retail marijuana stores in Maine.
David Sharp
Buyers line up to purchase cannabis products at Theory Wellness on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in South Portland, Maine. Theory Wellness was one of the first two licensed retail marijuana stores in Maine.

The Town of Kittery held an unusual lottery last night to determine who would be granted 3 highly coveted licenses for recreational marijuana storefronts in the town. Officials had expected a few dozen applicants to pay the $750 entry fee, but in the end there were more than 700, as companies with financial footing paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to sway the odds in their favor.

You might think with more than 700 applications for 3 retail marijuana licenses, the Kittery town council chambers where the lottery was held would be packed. But just a handful of applicants sat with their eyes trained on the lottery barrel operator, waiting anxiously for the numbers to be pulled.

"They didn't expect this, I think, they didn't know how many eyes were on this town," says Mitchell Delaney of Indico, a Maine based company, who won the drawing for the first license in a smaller commercial zone without the lion's share of competition. Delaney says the day before the deadline for applications he discovered that the bigger companies were creating separate business entities and filing hundreds of applications. A small operator with just one venue, Delaney drained his bank account to try to compete.

"I've learned the hard way it's a lot of politics in the cannabis market, so once I learned what was happening I did what I could and spent all of the money I had just to get a chance at this," Delaney says.

Brandon Pollock and Nick Friedman, co-founders of a well heeled cannabis company with stores in Maine and Massachusetts, bought more than 350 applications at 750 dollars each, spending more than a quarter of a million dollars. And it worked. They won the two other lottery draws, allowing them to file business and site applications for two marijuana storefronts, one on Route 236, the other on Route 1. After the drawing, some complained that the town licensing ordinance favored bigger players with resources. David Leavitt, an attorney for applicant Darius Gerald, said his client is African American and a military veteran, and that social equity provisions should have been included in the ordinance.

"Social equity is very important, to make reparations in communities harmed by the war on drugs. The fact they didn't include it makes the process questionable," Leavitt says.

Leavitt says he had approached the town before the lottery to ask about including equity provisions, but was told that the ordinance had already been adopted as written. Kittery Town Manager Kendra Amaral says the town began working on the ordinance in February and had a lengthy public vetting process to ensure that the lottery would be transparent and fair. She says no one guessed that the application process would draw more than 700 entries.

"That's something that goes to the industry and how they work the system, the town did not think it was our role to determine who the winners and losers would be in this, just to ensure everyone could be a part of it," Amaral says.

The three lottery winners will now be invited by the town to submit business license and site plan review applications to be considered by the Town Planning Board and Town Council. A public hearing on the approval of the licenses is also expected, where lottery losers will get their chance to speak out.

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Carol Bousquet
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