KITTERY, Maine — Before an eager crowd, town officials called out the numbers of three lucky lottery winners inside the Town Hall council chambers Thursday.
No, it wasn’t the Maine State Lottery. These people were entrants in Kittery’s highly anticipated retail marijuana shop license lottery. Ping pong balls numbered 8, 124 and 113 were randomly pulled from a shiny brass raffle drum from hundreds of entrants, making three lucky winners very happy with a lucrative business opportunity.
The winners were Mitchell Delaney, who plans to open a shop at 181 State Road; Brandon Pollock, who plans to open a shop at 41 Route 236; and Nick Friedman whose planned location is 8 Dexter Lane, Unit 4.
Brandon Pollock and Nick Friedman, who purchased hundreds of lottery entries at a cost of about a quarter million dollars, are listed as co-founders of Theory Wellness, which operates many marijuana businesses in Massachusetts and Maine.
All three winners get first dibs for Kittery’s three coveted retail marijuana licenses, though their proposals must gain approval from the town. The remaining entries are placed on a waiting list by the order in which they were drawn in the lottery.
Kittery gets big money for the big lottery
Just last week, Kittery announced more than 700 applications to the lottery had been submitted at a non-refundable cost of $750 each, raising more than $535,000 for the town’s general fund.
Town Manager Kendra Amaral said each ping pong ball was numbered and would be pulled by Maryann Place, the town’s retired clerk who had no knowledge of which applicant corresponded to which numbered ball. For each individual zone lottery drawing, Place spun the raffle drum three times before pulling the balls at random. “This truly is a blind draw,” Amaral said.
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One winner was chosen for each of three zones in Kittery, which are known as C-1 (Ripley Road and Route 1 area), C-2 (Route 236) and C-3 (Route 1 Bypass, State Road and Old Post Road area).
What we know about the Kittery marijuana shop lottery winners
The first winner drawn was Delaney, owner of Indico medical marijuana dispensary at 120 State Road in Kittery. He won the C-3 lottery, which had 11 entries, and plans to open an adult-use marijuana shop at 181 State Road.
Wearing a black sweatshirt with the neon lettering of his medical dispensary business, Delaney sat in the back of the council chambers Thursday evening.
He submitted 10 pre-applications, spending $7,500 to apply for different retail addresses and creating separate entities, spread across all three zones in the lottery. After his winning lottery number was announced, he fought back tears.
“I’m shaking and emotional,” he said. “It’s been a long ride.”
Delaney had submitted his lottery applications the day before they were due last week.
Pollock and Friedman, with more than 350 entries combined, were drawn as the next lottery winners.
Pollock’s entity’s name is Well Field 44 LLC. He was the winner among 248 C-2 zone entries. Friedman, whose entity’s name is Golden Road 111 LLC, was the winner among 446 C-1 zone entries.
Attempts to contact Pollock and Friedman for comment have been unsuccessful.
Kittery lottery process called out for lack of ‘social equity’?
Among those in attendance for the lottery were David Leavitt, who identified himself as a cannabis lawyer, and Katharine Thomas, who identified as a social equity advocate.
Moments after Friedman was named the third and final lottery winner, both stood outside Town Hall threatening to take the town to court.
Their reason? Leavitt and Thomas claimed that Kittery’s pre-application process didn’t accommodate marginalized lottery applicants, including their own client, Darius Gerald, by asking about gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and veteran status, or socioeconomic status in the application for the lottery. Both said Gerald is a Black veteran who couldn’t afford to submit more than one application for the C-1 zone lottery.
Going against businesses who had the financial means to submit a large number of lottery applications put Gerald’s one application at an unfair disadvantage, they argued.
“Unfortunately, we have to bring attention to this right now because it’s unfair,” Thomas said. “We have a military veteran who has applied and his (application) has not been given the proper recognition in this lottery system. It’s unfortunate.”
By comparison, they noted, Illinois’ Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity has an “Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program,” the goal of which is to connect “persons and communities that have been historically impacted by arrests and imprisonment for cannabis offenses to have opportunities to participate in the legal cannabis industry,” per the program’s website.
Legal action was taken against the state for issues arising from the program, which still led to white applicants receiving higher business application scores than the minority individuals it was intended to aid.
Amaral said that the town received a call from Leavitt and Thomas, who requested that “social equity points” be considered and added to a minority person’s application to the lottery.
The town later had a meeting with the two individuals several weeks after the ordinance had already been adopted. Amaral said they did not voice their concerns during the entire ordinance creation process, which began at the town Planning Board level in February and allowed for public input.
“That’s not the way the ordinance was written,” Amaral said of their concerns. “Kittery does not currently have any ordinances in terms of business licenses or anything related to our land-use code that identifies or singles out any one group, person or identity than any others.”