After the Berkeley Patients’ Group’s plans to move into the old Sharffen Berger chocolate factory on Heinz and Seventh Street fell through in 2010, the medical cannabis dispensary turned its attention back onto its San Pablo Avenue home. If the organization, which serves hundreds of people a day, wasn’t going to be moving into larger digs, what could it do to make the experience better for patients?
In a word, remodel.
Over the last year, Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary has been sprucing up its space. It replaced its old razor wire fence with a handsome iron one, laid blond wood throughout the building, stripped off the frost window coverings, and set out sleek tables and chairs for people to relax in, hang out, and medicate. Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg helped with the plans.
In addition, BPG bought a building across the street and moved its social services – free acupuncture, massage, Pilates, and other services – there. The group is also constructing a new, freestanding lounge in its parking lot, which will give the staff of 75 a place to eat lunch and relax.
“One of the reasons for the remodeling is to better serve our patients,” said Brad Senesac, the group’s media spokesman.
The efforts have paid off. The East Bay Express named BPG “Best Dispensary Lounge,” in its 2011 Best of the East Bay edition.
BPG is not the only dispensary in Berkeley with a sense of style. The Cannabis Buyers’ Club of Berkeley, better known as CBCB, moved into a new building on Shattuck Avenue near Woolsey in late 2009. The structure had been a pet store that sold fish and aquarium supplies, and it needed to be completely redone. The members of the cannabis collective were instrumental in transforming the space, said Aundre Speciale, the executive director of the dispensary, which has about 3,500 members. The lounge is decorated with colorful couches and fringed umbrellas. There are two turntables on a counter, because a number of members who are DJs like to spin music, she said.
Berkeley’s third dispensary, the Patient’s Care Collective, has a colorful photo splashed against one wall, but there is no lounge because members cannot consume cannabis on site.