Berkeley exports its cannabis expertise

Debby Goldsberry: a BPG founder and one of three people who have applied to open a cannabis dispensary in Albany

In a sign of the growing professionalization of the medical cannabis industry, Mark Rhoades and Ali Kashani, the owners of the Berkeley development company Citycentric Investments, have teamed up with Debby Goldsberry, a founder of the Berkeley Patients Group, to open a number of medical marijuana facilities around the East Bay.

Rhoades, Kashani, and Goldsberry have applied to open a cannabis dispensary in Albany and are planning to apply to open another in Oakland.

On Saturday, at the California NORML conference in Berkeley, the trio advertised their plans for a new Oakland collective they hope will combine an aesthetically appealing space with a large range of social services. They hung up a big banner on the second floor of the David Brower Center announcing the ARCH Collective, which stands for the Angel’s Retreat for Cannabis Health, to solicit prospective members.

There are only two large dispensaries in the East Bay, Harborside Health Center and BPG, and they are both over capacity, said Goldsberry. Since the rest of the dispensaries in the East Bay are small, there is an urgent need for a new large facility that can accommodate the growing number of medical cannabis patients, she said.

“There’s a war on drugs out there,” said Goldsberry, who along with Rhoades was a speaker at the conference, which looked at next steps for marijuana laws in California. “We want to make a gathering place that people feel comfortable hanging out in. We want to create a place to retreat, a place to come and get healthy, get recharged and then go out back in the world.”

Mark Rhoades

Goldsberry, Rhoades, and Kashani represent a new breed of medical marijuana entrepreneurs: people expert in land use policy, non-profit work, and running cannabis collectives. It’s a set of services that is growing in demand as more states adopt medical marijuana laws and as more people try to navigate the byzantine laws permitting medical marijuana in California.

The three are not the only ones exporting their Berkeley expertise. Becky DeKeuster, the former community liaison for the Berkeley Patients Group, and Tim Schick, a former director the CEO of BPG, won permission in August 2010 to establish four medical cannabis facilities in Maine. Brad Senesac, the spokesman for BPG, and other BPG staff members are planning to provide paid consulting services to DeKeuster’s Northeast Patients Group. BPG also assisted in the opening of two dispensaries in southern California. They have both One has since closed.

Kashani and Rhoades also provided consulting services to Remedia, a group that is vying to open Napa’s first medical cannabis dispensary, according to Rhoades.

Rhoades, who served as Berkeley’s city planning manager for nine years and did a short stint on the Medical Marijuana Commission, said his interest in land use policies led him to join forces with Kashani and Goldsberry. Rhoades, who was both lauded and criticized during his time in Berkeley government for his embrace of “smart growth” – placing high density mixed residential and retail development near transit corridors — said medical marijuana dispensaries have the potential to enhance commercial districts. Dispensaries are a high-volume business, he said. The Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue, which has about 13,000 members, draws 800 to 1,000 people each day to its facility. Those people also might be lured to stay in the area and shop.

“There is no other business in Berkeley that has one-third the volume of foot traffic BPG has,” said Rhoades. “Here’s a use that is better than a café or anything we have thought of in drawing people to your commercial district.”

Rhoades’ group has secured a site for a 2,000 square-foot medical cannabis dispensary in an industrial area of Albany on Cleveland Avenue, he said. The trio, along with Angel McClary Raich, a well-known medical cannabis advocate, have looked at various sites in Oakland for the ARCH collective but have not leased anything yet since they do not have a permit.

The Oakland City Council passed a law last year allowing for the permitting of four industrial grow facilities. The legality of those industrial grow sites is in limbo, however, until Oakland amends portions of the ordinance to comply more closely with state law. The city council will take up the matter again on Tuesday.

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  • laura menard

    I hope Albany follows the Richmond city council’s wise decision to reduce the amount of med pot being resold on the street by limiting sales to 1ounce per person per day, Berkeley and Oakland allow 2 ounces per day per “patient”.

  • Chris

    I see plenty of empty baggies from dispensaries littering the streets of West Berkeley. Parks, corner stores, post office. These are not all from “patients”.

    I’m pro-legalization and medical cannabis, but 2 OZ per day per patient? Ridiculous, and only adds to the arguments against medical marijuana.

  • Name Withheld

    As a libertarian-leaning liberal I’m all in favor of complete legalization of marijuana, but these pot clubs are ridiculous. Medical marijuana is a scam, pure and simple. Sure, some of the people who go to them really need the stuff, but every single person I know who has a “medical” license for pot got it through a look-the-other-way kind of doctor who just gives them out to anyone who pays $100 for a screening.

    As long as it’s half-legal the way it is now people will always scam the system, prices will stay high, and pot clubs will attract the criminal element.

  • Tim C.

    Name:…since you like to look things up in the dictionary, I’ve provided you with some definitions. You describe yourself as a liberal. Being left-leaning, are libertarian doesn’t make you a liberal. You might be a progressive, who knows.
    of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
    5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.

    7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
    8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.

    so, do you see yourself here?…so far, the open minded and tolerant factors seem to come up a little short.

  • Tim C.

    sorry for the typos…clumsy thumbs here

  • r wright

    There may be growing professionalism in the industry because immense profits make it a good business for exploitation.

    In light of what is reported to be very strong marijuana available these days, wouldn’t an ounce a week limit would be more than adequate for an individual buying purely for their own personal use?

  • Carol

    When this whole medical marijuana thing came up, I was naive enough to actually think it would be dispensed just like any other drug, through licensed pharmacies. Oh boy, was I wrong. Medical marijuana is such a scam. For every legitimate user of medical marijuana, there are about 100 recreational users (I admit that I just pulled those statistic out of the air, so don’t beat me up on that. But it seems that way to me.) Goldsberry even says “We want to create a place to retreat, a place to come and get healthy, get recharged and then go out back in the world.” And the Berkeley Patients Group wants to lure people to “stay in the area and shop” ?. How sick are these so-called medical-marijuana users if they are being used to spur the economy? The voters of California just reaffirmed that we do not want legalized marijuana. If the vote for medical marijuana were being taken today, knowing what we know now, I bet it wouldn’t pass.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Tim C.

    Do you know how a Dictionary works? The list you see after a word is a list of possible definitions for it, not a list of things that something or someone must ascribe to in order to meet the meaning of the word.

    I’m sorry I don’t fit into your cookie-cutter idea of what a Liberal should be. Perhaps if more of us thought for ourselves instead of just voting along party lines for anything endorsed by someone with a (D) or an (R) after their name our Country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.

  • Wes

    I work right near BPG and people tend to be very respectful around the area from what I see on a daily basis. Good for them for expanding, CA could definitely use the tax money that comes in from these sales.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Carol – I agree about MM being a scam (check out some of the reviews for BPG on Yelp), but I disagree about legalization. Prohibition on marijuana is pointless and doesn’t make sense. It’s less dangerous than legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol, and I have yet to hear any reasonable arguments as to why it should be illegal when other substances that are worse remain legal.

  • This team has exactly the experieince and the ethics to run these clubs correctly. Becaome a charter member today at to recieve a lifetime of benefits, and to show support to some of the East Bays most celebrated activists. It’s simple and free to become a member.

  • I must call bull@&%! on you so called liberals. I remember the people from Modesto, Fresno and San Jose I met in Hayward because Hayward was the closest dispensary to those folks. Some of these folks had to drive 90 miles just to enter a dispensary. The law allows them 8 oz. If they need to stock up or use edibles then they should be able to purchase that amount. In California anyone over 21 can carry 1 oz all day, everywhere they go and it’s just a ticket. Limiting patients to that standard is unfair for the most vulnerable patients. The idea of paying $$ top dollar $$ at a dispensary and selling it on the black market and making it a lucrative endeavor seems laughable.

  • Name Withheld

    …yet there are people I know who do just that.

    They don’t make a LOT of money, but by buying their maximum allowable amount of pot every week they have enough to spare that they sell it on the side to yuppies who “don’t want to deal with dealers” and who see it as a safer way of getting their weed.

    Marijuana needs to just be fully legalized once and for all. I don’t smoke it and I don’t have anything to do with the industry, but I find the hypocrisy of a country where much deadlier substances (alcohol & tobacco) are legal and marijuana is criminalized to be galling.

  • laura menard


    Arch collective as you say seems serious and ethical, I particularly liked the research links.

    weedbay guy,

    an outgrowth of the dispensary systems is the high school dealer. 18 year old students obtain med pot access, take orders at school, and then make the transaction on school property.

    Liberals don’t have to be brain dead, we are allow to think critically, right?

  • Diane

    You spelled Angel’s last name incorrectly. It’s RAICH not ‘Reich’. A big blunder!