Concern over future location of cannabis collective

Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue needs to move. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Last Tuesday afternoon, around 1:30pm, Rebecca, who describes herself as a “50ish” recent transplant from Los Angeles, headed over to the Berkeley Patients Group at 2747 San Pablo Avenue. For the past six months, ever since she moved north, Rebecca has gone to the medical cannabis dispensary once a month to get marijuana to help her with her insomnia brought on by menopause.

“It’s my favorite place,” said the Rockridge resident, who did not give her last name. “It just feels like a community place. The folks are very knowledgeable. I really rely on what they say.”

Rebecca does not know what she will do when BPG closes its doors on May 1, a casualty of the recent federal crackdown on dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of a school or park. She has visited other collectives, but none has made her feel as welcome as Berkeley Patients Group.

Other places “feel seedy to me,” she said. “I just like the way this place feels. I’m an older gal in my 50s. It feels comfortable to me.”

Rebecca is not alone. Other patients leaving BPG on Tuesday bemoaned the news that BPG will cease operations at its current site in just a few weeks.

“I haven’t found anything as good,” said Brandon, who lives in Concord. “You can’t beat the prices.”

BPG is being forced to shut its doors May 1 because its landlord, David Mayeri, received a letter from the U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in November telling him the dispensary was located within 1,000 feet of a school, according to sources knowledgeable about the situation. The government threatened to seize Mayeri’s assets if the dispensary did not shut down.

Mayeri and BPG  negotiated a settlement whereby BPG agreed to move by May 1, according to California Watch. Mayeri has put the 17,500 square foot property up for sale for $2.55 million.

BPG officials have declined to talk publicly about their situation but say the collective is not closing. They insist the dispensary is moving, although they have not announced a new location.

Efforts to find a new site have not been easy, according to people familiar with the relocation efforts who asked not to be named. Landlords who once might have been willing to rent to a cannabis operation are now leery because of the recent federal crackdown. And there are not many areas in Berkeley that are 1,000 feet away from a school and yet within the city’s zoning guidelines.

“Most of Berkeley is essentially excluded by that rule,” said Dave Fogarty, a project coordinator for Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development.

The closure of BPG will also have a detrimental economic effect. The city’s three cannabis dispensaries generated about $160,000 in tax revenue for Berkeley in 2011, with the bulk coming from BPG, which is by far the biggest operation. BPG also employs about 75 people.

“I’m pretty sure Berkeley Patients Group is within the top 20 sales tax generators in Berkeley,” said Fogarty. “There’s a revenue loss. There is an economic effect. In an economic crisis, for 75 people to lose their jobs, that’s bad.”

Fogarty and other members of Berkeley’s economic development team have been ordered not to assist BPG in relocating, said Fogarty. Given the current actions of U.S. Attorney Haag, City Attorney Zach Cowan has said that it is not a good idea for Berkeley to be actively involved.

“The city attorney advised city staff not to help BPG because it’s potentially an illegal act for city staff to be active in assisting BPG,” said Fogarty.

Even if Berkeley Patients Group finds a new location, there probably will be a lag between the time it closes on San Pablo Avenue and opens elsewhere, said Erik Miller, the manager of Berkeley Patients Care Collective (PCC), which operates on Telegraph Avenue. The PCC is trying to prepare for that eventuality, he said.

“We are gearing up,” said Miller. “The staff is ready to work extra days to have more people there. We’ve talked about expanding our hours if it gets crazy.”

But PCC is a small storefront operation with one counter for retail sales and no place to consume medicine. It is not set up to absorb the hundreds of patients who visit BPG each day, said Miller.

The second largest dispensary in Berkeley, CBCB, did not respond to calls for comment.

Patients can also turn to a number of other cannabis operations in town, even if some of them are not complying with zoning codes. 3PGS, also known as the Perfect Plant Patients Group, is still operating on Sacramento Street despite a city order in December to shut down. The collective is operating in a commercial district. Berkeley law requires collectives to be in residential zones.

There are also a number of cannabis delivery services in Berkeley.

Related:
Berkeley Patient Group says it is moving, not closing [03.16.12]
Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary to close May 1 [03.15.12]
Federal letter may make Berkeley Patients Group relocate [03.14.12]
Berkeley orders two cannabis collectives to shut down [02.22.12]
Councilmember: Look at unauthorized cannabis collectives [12.06.11]
Rapid growth of cannabis collective raises concerns [9.20.11]
Concerns raised about new medical cannabis collective [10.27.11]
Commission ponders growth of unlicensed pot clubs [11.4.11]

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    I wondered the same thing.  I have experienced sleeping problems and when I consulted a sleep specialist, marijuana wasn’t ever discussed.  

    It seems that MJ is, for some, a medicinal “golden hammer” for which every ailment looks like a nail. I don’t doubt that cancer patients should be able to use it, but I know far more people whose “medicinal” use looks a lot more “recreational” than not.  

  • Bruce Love

     It seems important to you that medical treatment not be pleasurable.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Interesting, but no, that’s not what I said.  

  • 94702dweller

    How ridiculously laughable.  I wonder how many liquor stores are within 1000 feet of Ecole Bilingue, or any other school in Berkeley.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

     there are laws in place that state if you buy alcohol for or sell to a minor you could go to prison…if you do the same with weed you get a slap on the wrist, that is why we need protections for the children.

  • Bruce Love

     

    there are laws in place that state if you buy alcohol for or sell to a minor you could go to prison…if you do the same with weed you get a slap on the wrist, that is why we need protections for the children.

    In California law, for persons 18 or older,  selling pot to a minor is punished by a jail sentence.  The minimum sentence is three years.

  • Charles_Siegel

     First, let me respond by quoting another commenter:
    “In WA State, where I used to live, people got medical marijuana at the
    pharmacy, like CVS.  No kidding.  I had a friend who got a prescription
    for some marijuana and he got a small pack of tiny little marijuana
    cigarettes.”
    Obviously, smoking is the most common way to do it.

    And, if I have to state the very, very obvious, marijuana (like alcohol) also impairs your ability to drive or operate machinery and has effects on cognition.  If Lipitor had those side-effects, fewer people would be taking it.

  • Bruce Love

     

    And, if I have to state the very, very obvious, marijuana (like alcohol) also impairs your ability to drive

    That’s far from obvious and arguably false.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/04/06/prweb9375729.DTL#ixzz1rJERddzk

  • Bruce Love

    Obviously, smoking is the most common way to do it.

    It’s not at all clear that MJ is particularly bad for your lungs unless, possibly, when used to great excess.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/marijuana-and-lungs-study_n_1197854.html

  • Charles_Siegel

    What he said is that he thinks some people are using it because it is pleasurable, not because it is the best medical treatment.  When I was a very little kid, I used to like to drink cough medicine because it tasted so good, and of course I didn’t know that it was 40% alcohol.

    I should add that I am all for medical marijuana and generally for legalization of marijuana; it seems to work very well in the Netherlands (except for drug tourism, which they are now dealing with).

    The problem here is that many people commenting here are talking about medical use of marijuana but are obviously thinking about recreational use of marijuana.

    There is a backlash against medical marijuana precisely because people think it will lead to recreational use.  That is obviously what is happening here.  Melinda Haag doesn’t want to keep dispensaries away from schools because she wants to make life harder for people with glaucoma; she obviously wants to keep the medical use from spreading to recreational use.

    Some of the commenters here are encouraging that backlash and making life harder for people with glaucoma.  So, it is fine if you want to talk about legalization of marijuana, but you should keep it separate from the issue of medical marijuana, in my opinion.

  • Charles_Siegel

     As I said earlier, people are harming the cause of medical marijuana when they comment about it in a way that is obviously meant to promote recreational use.

    How do you think people who are skeptical about medical marijuana will react when they hear that its supporters believe (based on one cherry-picked study) that it is fine to smoke marijuana and drive?

    And inhaling smoke is not bad for your lungs?  Give me a break.  There are limits on use of fireplaces in some locations because the smoke is unhealthy, and that is certainly less smoke than a regular marijuana user inhales.

  • Bruce Love

     

    The problem here is that many people commenting here are talking about
    medical use of marijuana but are obviously thinking about recreational
    use of marijuana.

    That’s not a black and white distinction.  Some users you label “recreational” may, from a different perspective, be self-medicating.

    Now there is a procedural distinction to be made for legal purposes: a “medical use” being that which is supervised by a licensed physician.    The law does relatively little to constrain a physician’s judgment other than a few very broad guidelines (e.g., that the condition must be persistent, that grass must be efficacious, etc.).   To a first order, it is left to the profession to regulate itself.

    So when someone says, of someone who buys MMJ, that they are a sham “recreational” user, they are saying one of two things.  Either:

    a) The buyer didn’t really follow the procedure (e.g., is using a forged ID card).

    or

    b) The licensed physician who wrote the recommendation lied or made a huge mistake.

    The case of (a) is uncommon so I guess we are talking about (b).

    And that’s why I suggested it sounded important to “PragmaticP.” that medicine be unpleasant. 

    Suppose, for example, that a patient receives a prescription for mild stress, depression, anxiety, etc. (not brought on by drug abuse).   And its efficacious and use has a basically recreational feel.   Who are you or PragmaticP. to say “that isn’t medicine — that’s cheating”?

  • Bruce Love

     

    As I said earlier, people are harming the cause of medical marijuana
    when they comment about it in a way that is obviously meant to promote
    recreational use.

    Says you.   Not everybody agrees.

    How do you think people who are skeptical about medical marijuana will
    react when they hear that its supporters believe (based on one
    cherry-picked study) that it is fine to smoke marijuana and drive?

    I don’t think there’s any simple answer to such a question.   You display a reductionist and condescending attitude towards the body politic.  My rule of thumb for such imponderables as what “people who are skeptical about MMJ [will think]” is that what they think will be all over the map.   Let’s guess half will have their view reinforced and half might have new questions.  or 80-20 or 20-80.  Or some more nuanced outcome.  It’s not a useful way of analyzing the politics.

    And inhaling smoke is not bad for your lungs?  Give me a break.

    It’s a smoke with medically active ingredients.  Some of the ingredients may act as anti-cancer agents.   Some of the ingredients certainly cause vasodialation.   The smoke, unlike tobacco smoke, has expectorant qualities.

    You know how pot smoke famously sometimes makes people cough like crazy?   Ever notice how tobacco smoke does not have a similar effect?   Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, pot a vasodialator.   They have very different effects.   Coughing now and then may actually be good for you, especially if what’s triggering it might also help fight cancer.   I’ve seen it argued (in a medical context) that moderate use of smoked marijuana may actually improve lung health in urban settings heavy with soot and other pollution.

    There are limits on use of fireplaces in some locations because the
    smoke is unhealthy, and that is certainly less smoke than a regular
    marijuana user inhales.

    The smoke of a fireplace is very, very different from the smoke of either MJ or tobacco.   Not all smoke is equal. 

  • EBGuy

    Fellow Berkeleysiders, I suspect we have an ideal scenario for a RAND type study.  We can do a before and after look at crime in the neighborhood.  It shouldn’t be that hard if we do it in shifts.  I’m sure JH, BL, The Sharkey and other favorite BS personalities would be willing to take a shift.  Get your lawn chairs and take a seat on the sidewalk –hmmmm..  maybe I’m thinking of traffic studies.  Is there a statistician in the the house?  Wait, I think that was already answered on another thread. 
    PS – Bonus points if you bring the kids.  We can send them around the block and see how many times they are asked to buy drugs before and after the BPG closure.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “Now there is a procedural distinction to be made for legal purposes: a
    “medical use” being that which is supervised by a licensed physician.”

    Exactly.  As with ritalin and with other prescription drugs that are sometimes used as street drugs because they feel good or give you some other advantage. 

    Though I favor legalization of marijuana, there clearly are other drugs that will be abused if they are not controlled in this way because they give people a competitive advantage: for example, ritalin helps students study and steroids help athletes win competitions. 

    If these drugs were not controlled and limited to medical use, students and athletes would virtually have to use drugs to compete with others.  That is one reason why medical control of some drugs is necessary.

    We cannot allow people to choose whether to self-medicate with these drugs.  That procedural difference that you seem to consider unimportant really is very important.

    Question: do you think that people should be allowed to self-medicate with any drug they choose? 

  • Bruce Love

     

    Question: do you think that people should be allowed to self-medicate with any drug they choose?

    I don’t know and I don’t see how it is relevant.   We aren’t talking about “any drug they choose”.   We’re talking about MJ.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “Says you.   Not everybody agrees.”

    As a reality check, you should try going to a meeting about medical marijuana and saying 1) that you support medical marijuana because it will lead to more recreational use of marijuana and 2) you support recreational use of marijuana for many reasons, including the fact that people drive more safely after using marijuana.

    You will see whether everybody agrees.

  • Bruce Love

     Charles you pride yourself on your rationality (at least if your writings are any indication) and yet, here, you distort what I said so badly and unrealistically that I no longer believe you are being intellectually honest.

  • bgal4

    Yo Holland,

    more data for your website:

    11 arrested in raid on Oakland pot warehouse

    Henry K. Lee

    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    (04-26) 13:03 PDT OAKLAND —
    Police arrested 11 suspects and seized 2,500 marijuana plants during a
    raid of a heavily fortified warehouse in East Oakland, authorities said
    Thursday.

    Oakland police, including members of the SWAT team, converged on a
    building on the 900 block of 89th Avenue on Wednesday night. Officers
    seized the plants, 50 pounds of dried, processed marijuana, $40,000 in
    cash, four handguns, a shotgun, two assault rifles, two sets of body
    armor and a ballistics face mask and helmets, said Assistant Chief
    Anthony Toribio.

    Ten men and a woman were arrested. The suspects, whose names were
    not released, could be prosecuted in federal court because of the size
    of the operation and because of stricter sentences upon conviction,
    Toribio said.

    The city had not designated the operation as an authorized medical marijuana dispensary, police said.

    “This is one of the largest marijuana recoveries in recent years in
    the city of Oakland,” Toribio said. “This was a well-organized marijuana
    factory,” complete with high-end video surveillance equipment, he said.

    There were two “substructures” within the building, one for growing the marijuana and the other for drying it, Toribio said. 

  • scot

    I will really miss a place where I can get a quick Doctor-On-The-Take referral and I can get run over by blasted stoners all times of day..Not. To get decent treatment and proffessional service Berkeleyan’s know that we have to go to Oakland anyway.