Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary to close May 1

The consumption lounge of Berkeley Patients Group, which will close its San Pablo Avenue location on May 1. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Medical cannabis patients in Berkeley will have a more difficult time getting marijuana after Berkeley Patient’s Group shuts down on May 1.

California Watch is reporting today that BPG has signed a legal agreement with its landlord, David Mayeri, to vacate the premises. The agreement came after Mayeri received a letter from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warning him there might be financial or legal repercussions if distribution of cannabis did not cease at that location.

“Berkeley Patients Group agrees to cease all cannabis-related activities and remove all cannabis-related property from the premises by May 1, 2012,” a legal document filed Feb. 28 in Alameda County Court states, according to California Watch.

Berkeleyside reported yesterday that Mayeri had put his property at 2747 San Pablo Avenue up for sale for $2.55 million.

Officials from Berkeley Patients Group have repeatedly declined to confirm or deny that Mayeri had gotten a cease and desist letter from the federal government. They have also not commented on whether they have found a place to relocate. The dispensary, which moved into its current location 13 years ago, has been looking unsuccessfully for a new spot for a number of years. There are very few locations available that fit all the rules and regulations set out by the state and local governments.

The closure of Berkeley’s largest medical cannabis dispensary will put 75 people out of work and leave thousands of people with fewer options on where to find their medicine. Only one of the other two dispensaries in Berkeley – Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley on Shattuck – has space for people to consume medicine. The Patients Care Collective on Telegraph is small and does not have space for consumption.

Forty Acres, a cannabis collective that served hundreds of patients a week, was recently forced by the city of Berkeley to shut its premises on San Pablo Avenue. The collective was operating in a commercial district as opposed to a residential zone, as required by law. Berkeley also ordered Perfect Plant Patients Group, another collective operating in a commercial zone on Sacramento Street, to shut down but it is still open for business.

The closure could also impact local non-profits. Berkeley Patients Group is a generous contributor to local charities.

Cannabis plants for sale at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Charlie Pappas, who sits on the Medical Cannabis Commission and who was forced by the federal government to shut down his Divinity Tree dispensary in San Francisco last year, said Oakland dispensaries and cannabis delivery services will probably now see an uptick in business. The Oakland City Council voted this week to permit four more dispensaries to open.

U.S. Attorneys in northern California have been targeting dispensaries that are within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds. BPD sits closer that that to Ecole Bilingue on Heinz Street. It is also near the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, another school.

Federal letter may make Berkeley Patients Group relocate [03.14.12]

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  • Bruce Love

    We live in a time when even Pat Robertson favors legalization and yet the federal government is running around destroying jobs and encouraging the black market suppliers.   If anyone still labors under the misapprehension that our legislatures are in the slightest bit responsive to the people, here’s another mark to make on your score card.

  • BerkeleyCommonSense

    I dare you to sport a “I support Pat Robertson” bumper sticker.

  • BerkeleyPariah

    Great…now just don’t let them re-open next to a school!  

  • BerkeleyPariah

     that’s right because it wouldn’t be welcome in Berkeley…The home of free speech…AS LONG AS YOU AGREE WITH US! otherwise we will ridicule you.

  • Chris

    MM will not be “more difficult” to obtain. There are several delivery services that deliver to Berkeley. What’s easier than having it delivered to your front door???

  • Andrew

    Why don’t we just legitimize medical cannabis as a pharmaceutical drug same as other “drugs” like opiates and offer it through pharmacies?  If your doc says you have a legitimate medical concern that cannabis would help alleviate then just write a prescription and have it filled like any other prescription at any pharmacy you prefer. The side effects sure seem far less dangerous than many pharmaceuticals out there today!

    I’m sure all of the violent drug cartels are happy to have these collectives close down.

  • The Sharkey

     Why not just legalize it completely and regulate and tax it the same as we do tobacco or alcohol?

  • TizziLish

    Actually, marijuana is dispensed in the way you describe in Washington State.  No lollipops or brownies, just prescription-dispensed from a drug store.  I have never used medically prescribed marijuana but I saw a friend’s pharmacy marijuana:  he got a small bundle of very small cigarettes. From the pharmacy!!

  • Andrew

     That too. Sell it at Andronicos next to the beer and wine. But, the medical marijuana approach seems to be the foot in the door.

  • TizziLish

    Do you happen to know any of the rationales our legislators give for keeping marijuana in the weird limbo it is in? Medical marijuana is legal here, and in more states all the time. What is the argument of the money-grubbing, elite-serving federal ‘representatives’ that keeps marijuana illegal at the federal level? Are they beholden to the corporations running prisons? Do they get juice from companies that sell cop cars, uniforms? or maybe they get donations from cop unions?  If you take away marijuana busts, cops might have to do good community policing?  Why the heck is this drug treated the way it is by the law?

    And, just fyi, I have not smoked marijuana since I was an undergrad and I graduated college in 1975.  I am all for legalizing it entirely. Legalize it like booze and tax it like booze.  Give up this stupid, expensive fight.

  • Andrew

     Are the Feds after them too?

  • Bruce Love

    Rationales?  One can only speculate.

    Politically its treated as a hot potato.   For example, several times now the Obama administration has solicited the public to “vote for” questions for the White House to answer.   Regularly, “why not legalize pot?” is one of the top few questions.   The thrust of the WH response is along the lines of “Ha ha, very funny guys.  But this is for serious questions.  Next question….”

    A small number of politicians (famously, Ron Paul) are in full throated support of legalization, but they are a minority.

    The FDA controls the classification status of it.   They talk in a circle along these lines:  “There aren’t (they say) good scientific studies establishing safety and efficacy.   Also, for the most part, scientific studies of pot are prohibited.”

    There’s a decent amount of “reefer madness” kind of fear among some swaths of the population.   If there were real political leadership then that fear could be overcome by talk like Pat Robertson’s (gist: “I’m not in favor of using pot.  The war on drugs is an expensive failure.”).   Instead, it looks to me, few politicians will dare raise the prospect of legalization because if they do, some other politician will inflame that nervous base.

    The DEA and FBI seem to love pot for all the obvious reasons.

    In general, pot is still a political weapon.  Here, watch:   “Occupy is a bunch of pothead losers.”  See?  You could come across something like that in the letters page or even an op-ed in a major paper and you’d hardly even blink.   For “Occupy” feel free to substitute just about anything:  east coast college professors,  west coast legislators, anyone in show business etc.   It’s a free-pass universal insult.

    Did you ever see the TV series, Ken Burns “Prohibition”? We’re a “nation of hypocrites” but we lack something analogous to a Roosevelt who’ll say “I think now would be a good time for a bong hit.”

  • Since it’s so simple for the Feds to step in and close down a dispensary that has security on the premises and doesn’t cause problems for the neighborhood, I have to wonder how much better Berkeley would be if that same power could applied to shut down Lo-Cost Liquors and other corner liquor stores that have been causing significant problems for neighborhoods in this city for decades.

    Too bad government (at all levels) tends to be run by people that are more interested in power and celebrity status than common sense. If we had some folks at all levels of government that did things that make sense for neighborhoods and communities, we’d all be a lot better off.

  • John Holland

    ” The Oakland City Council voted this week to permit four more dispensaries to open.”

    Maybe it *is* that much easier to open a business in Oakland than it is in Berkeley!

  • dsd510

    As a chronic debilitating migraine sufferer who frequents BPG, and also has a physical disability that prevents me from easily traveling to other places, this is extremely upsetting. Also a huge loss of tax revenue, and peoples’ jobs. Lose-lose all around. Thanks, federal government.

  • John Holland

    Tizzilish wrote:

    Do you happen to know any of the rationales our legislators give for keeping marijuana in the weird limbo it is in?

    One word: Lobbyists.

  • John Holland

    Berkeley Pariah:

    otherwise we will ridicule you.

    Ridicule ~is~ free speech. The exact opposite would happen to a Berkeleyite in a conservative southern town.

    But in neither case would anyone’s free speech be infringed.

  • John Holland

    Bruce Love wrote:

    [“Pothead”] is a free-pass universal insult.

    It’s not uncommon to see it used that way on Berkeleyside.

  • Ed S.

    And, as someone who lives in the neighborhood, the concept of a large, vacant storefront on San Pablo Avenue is much more troubling than the operation of the cannibus club.  Walked by the place several times with my young kids and never witnessed any nuisance issues. 

  • John Holland

    One thing’s for sure: if someone wants to buy cannabis in that neighborhood, they’ll have to do it on the street from now on. Splendid.

  • J12

     agreed.  another vacant storefront on San Pablo. bummer.

  •    Though California passed its medical marijuana initiative, the medical marijuana dispensaries and growers are facing closure and arrest because our state law conflicts with federal law that makes the growners activities illegal. 

          They will go underground like this industry always has. The state of California and the feds will lose the tax revenue and ability to regulate the industry and more importantly, the patients will lose their medicine unles they break the “law”.

          For a cash-strapped federal government, there is nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  • maryam

    I’m also not looking forward to having another large vacant space in our neighborhood. if anything, BPG’s presence makes me feel safer. very disappointing news.

  • BerkeleyPariah

     Great Keep it in Oakland!

  • Bruce Love

    There there.

  • The Sharkey

    What times or days of the week were you walking by?
    I seem to always see a patron from BPG either violating traffic laws or exiting the premisses high as a kite when I go by on weekends.

  • J12

     I pass by there all the time on the weekends. Not very much during the week as I work a 9-5. I’ve never had issues or any problems with anyone coming or going out of there.

    Granted, I have seen some of the quick u-turns on San Pablo from cars after exiting but they are always respectful of me as a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

  • The Sharkey

     So Berkeley is no better than conservative southern towns? Awesome.

  • The Sharkey

    I’ll still never get over the Saturday afternoon that I saw a customer exit their store, get on a bicycle, immediately crash into a tree, fall into the road, and then be helped back onto his bicycle and sent on his way by one of the BPG guards.

  • Ed S.

    Usually on weekends, but also weekday early evenings.  Nothing out of ordinary, as compared to quick traffic darts from Lanesplitter Pizza or Missouri Lounge patrons. (Not to knock either, I love those places.)  Or the smokers outside ACME Bar.  Any commercial venture on a busy thoroughfare like San Pablo is going to have such issues. (Except for the people walking out high . . . no actually the same number of people seem to be high coming out of Lanesplitter and Missouri as BPG). 

  • John Holland

    No, they’re just as good. Free speech can be contentious.

  • Completeley Serious

    Food, drugs, music, art — Oakland has rendered Berkeley irrelevant.

  • bgal4

     I think you missed the memo, delivery services are popping up.

  • bgal4

     Check to see if Oakland zoning standard is aligned with the federal standard. End of problem.

  • John Holland

    That’s a good point. I’d love to know your opinion on delivery services.

  • The Sharkey

    Don’t leave out gang violence.

    We’re getting more and more of it lately, but Oakland is still way ahead.

  • bgal4

    Both the state and the MM commission have indicted the issue of delivery service must be addressed in legislation.

    If you haven’t noticed I rarely express my opinion here, I use B-side to push out information the public is  not getting in the reporting or from officials sources.

    Robberies of delivery services will make pizza delivery robberies seem tame in comparison.

  • Guest

    I’m kind of surprised everyone posting here seems in support of medical marijuana. I’ve got news for you: It’s a sham. There are only a few legitimate patients and many, many recreational drug users who pretend to have medical needs to buy dope. That all participants in this fraud insist on calling it “medicine” is the icing on the cake. I say let’s do it properly or legalize it or drop it altogether. To turn a blind eye to the farce in exchange for the sizable tax revenue is ridiculous and embarrassing. 

  • Aram Jahn

    Not long ago I asked Dale Geiringer (Stanford law degree, longtime NORMAL dude) what he thought was the deepest “rationale” for pot still being persecuted. He said it was the Law Enforcement industry, needing it to justify their jobs. 

    Still…none of this makes a scintilla of sense to me. “Of course I inhaled. That was the idea.” – Obama. 

  • BerkeleyPariah

     “several times” hardly seems like a fair representation.

  • GG

    A few years ago it was “the Bush administration”, now it’s “federal government”. I call that hypocrisy.

  • Josh Garey

    Mark my words, crime will go up in this (my) neighborhood, and drunk-driving will go up in all of Berkeley.  This is fantastically stupid.

  • BerkeleyPariah

     We drink a lot of Kool-aid around here!

  • Ed S.

    For the next few months, I’ll count how many times I walk by. 

  • The Sharkey

    It’s a prickly issue.

    Marijuana does have some legitimate medical uses, but the current system is definitely a farce.

    Despite the sham of the current system, I support “medical” marijuana as a step on the path towards complete legalization. I do not smoke marijuana and I do not like marijuana, but it is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco and both of those are legal.

  • The Sharkey

    From what I’ve read, alcohol and tobacco companies also pump a lot of money into lobbying to keep marijuana illegal.

  • Tony

    Cigarettes kill an American every 65 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, 450,000 Americans per year, but are they illegal? Alcohol is responsible for 200,000 American deaths per year. Prescription drugs are responsible for 190,000 American deaths per year. Over the counter drugs are responsible for 90,000 American deaths per year. Pot, it harms no one. I am sick and tired of a handful of Federal Pigs telling we, the people, the majority, that voted for something, that we cannot consume what we voted legal. This is Fascism, not Democracy. The Federal government collects 250 million dollars a day off of cigarettes, a “DRUG” that kills 450,000 Americans a year. They are the drug pushers, the dealers, the HYPOCRITS. California has one tenth of the countries population, it is time we start voting, along with the other states that have voted for medicinal marijuana, for politicians that come forth with a stance of legalization. Politicians that are behind the states that have voted for something but are being overruled by this handful of Federal Nazis are the politicians that we should vote for. If Americans can consume that poisonous nicotine and alcohol, they have every legal right  to use a harmless herb that “they” have voted for.