Berkeley Patients Group finds new home on San Pablo Ave.

A bulldozer rips up the parking lot at the new San Pablo Avenue home of Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

[Article is updated at the bottom.]

Three months after the federal government forced it from its long-term home on San Pablo Avenue, the Berkeley Patients Group has found a new location just a few blocks away.

Construction crews have been working to transform a small, dilapidated one-story building at 2366 San Pablo Avenue near Channing Way into BPG’s new dispensary. On Wednesday, a bulldozer was breaking up an asphalt parking lot and workers were hauling away debris.

Berkeley Patients Group declined to answer questions about its new location, but it looks like it will be many weeks or months before it can open. In a permit application submitted to the city by Sean Luse, one of BPG’s managers, the dispensary applied for permission to replace its parking lot and renovate the 1,200 square foot building, including cutting new doors to make it accessible for those in wheelchairs. The structure was built in 1964 as an A&W drive-in restaurant.

The new home of Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

BPG is scheduled to present its plans to the Medical Cannabis Commission in September and show how it will comply with health and safety laws, according to Elizabeth Greene, a city planner who staffs the commission.

“Staff is aware that BPG has selected a new location which it would like to open as soon as possible,” Greene said in an email to Berkeleyside. “Part of that process involves an MCC review of how the relocated dispensary will meet Berkeley’s medical cannabis dispensary safety and operational standards; the purpose of the review is to allow the commission to advise staff whether BPG’s strategy for compliance with these standards at the relocated site is appropriate.”

BPG had to leave its location at 2747 San Pablo Avenue after the US Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to the building’s owner, threatening to seize the property if he did not evict the dispensary. Haag contended that BPG was located within 1,000 feet of a school, which made it illegal under California guidelines.

The eviction was part of a large-scale plan by four California U.S. Attorneys to clamp down on medical cannabis sales. Medical marijuana advocates estimate that more than 400 dispensaries in northern California have closed because of the federal government’s actions, including Divinity Tree, a dispensary operated by Charlie Pappas, one of Berkeley’s medical cannabis commissioners. Just recently, Haag sent a letter to the owner of the property housing Oakland’s Harborside Health, threatening to seize the land.

Rep Barbara Lee introduced a bill into Congress last week making it illegal to use forfeiture to shut down cannabis clinics.

The May closure of Berkeley Patients Group was only the latest indication of the turmoil surrounding the medical cannabis industry. Under current Berkeley law, only three dispensaries are permitted to operate: BPG, CBCB, and Berkeley Patients’ Collective, and they must operate in a commercial district. A law passed by voters in 2010 will allow the permitting of a fourth dispensary and the Medical Cannabis Commission is now drafting those guidelines.

But many cannabis operators have chosen to ignore Berkeley’s laws and open storefronts in commercial districts anyway without getting a permit. After scores of complaints, Berkeley moved in December to shut down two of these cannabis outlets, Forty Acres on San Pablo Avenue near University and 3PGs on Sacramento Street. Forty Acres shut briefly but has reopened and 3PGs has stayed open, despite fines levied by the city. At least one other cannabis operation opened on Dwight Way recently.

There has also been an increase in the number of delivery services for cannabis patients. After its closure, BPG started a delivery service, as did Forty Acres. Weedmaps.com describes a half a dozen such services in Berkeley.

Update, 6:30 pm: After this article was published, Berkeley Patients Group sent out a release about its new location. An excerpt is below and you can read the entire release here.

“Ample care was taken in selecting a relocation site that satisfies the requirements of both the city of Berkeley and the state of California while retaining convenient access for our patient members. BPG’s relocation site at 2366 San Pablo Avenue is located in a Commercial District. The site is more than 1000 feet aware from all elementary, middle and high schools, both public and private, and more than 1000 feet from the other two permitted dispensaries in Berkeley, exceeding the requirements detailed in BMC 23E. 16.070.”

The release goes on to say that BPG will put a trailer in the rear of the property to house administrative functions. It will construct an 8-foot, secure fence with locable gates. There will be 24-hour security around the building. Loitering around the building will not be tolerated.

Related:
Berkeley Patients Group earned $15m in 2009
[06.20.12]
Sadness surrounds closing of Berkeley Patients Group [05.01.12]
Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary to close May 1
[3.15.12]
Berkeley cannabis lawsuit reveals bitter infighting [7.18.11]
Berkeley Patients Group owes $6.4 million in back taxes [2.24.11]

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  • Irisandjules

    Berkeleyside is on its toes! I was going to alert you to the news but there you are! 

  • TN

    This site has sat vacant for decades now. One of the reasons is that the lot was polluted.

    http://ecologycenter.org/terrain/issues/fall-2005/soiled-secrets/ 

    The lot has been cleaned up enough that the DTSC warning signs were removed since the Ecology Center Magazine article. But there appeared to be no takers.

  • Doc

    Can anyone explain why Obama’s Justice Department is fighting to keep prohibition intact? He stated he would pursue just the opposite.

  • John Holland

    “Berkeley Patients Group declined to answer questions about its new location, but it looks like it will be many weeks or months before it can open.”

    Man, no wonder they need to earn such high salaries. How many people have to figure in legal battles with the community when they are budgeting payroll?!

  • http://www.omnivorousfox.com/ Mfox327

    That lot has been a blighted eyesore forever. Glad it’s finally getting some use, and the City will soon have a new flow of tax revenue.

  • Irisandjules

    Living very near the new site, I would love to hear from neighbors that abutted the previous location of BPG – were there any issues?

  • John Holland

    It’s a deliberate campaign against sick people.

  • Lou

    I live near the old site and walked by it frequently on my way to work or to the Bowl.  Never noticed any problems at all.

  • Guest44

    It’s 100% provable that there is absolutely no abuse of the Medical Marijuana system in California.

  • Duh!

     interstate drug trafficking.

  • w_berk

    I noticed many people driving in and out of the old BPG, at times bordering on recklessly. On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be loiterers or crowds of stoners outside, so hopefully they can keep things in check. While I am hopeful the BPG can rehab that eyesore in their new location, I do worry about intoxicated drivers at that already dangerous ped/bike crossing at Channing.  

  • Neil

    Thank you, the link is very informative.

  • doesn’t sound good to me

    Not a good location at all. This intersection is already VERY congested, with kids using Channing, the bicycle boulevard to get to school, Rosa Parks, which is less than half a mile from the proposed site. Adults on bikes have trouble navigating that intersection as well. Not to mention pedestrians. On numerous occasions I saw some impaired driving going on at the exit of the BPG in it’s old location. For example, drivers pulling out into heavy oncoming traffic, crossing over the 2 northbound lanes of busy San Pablo to make a left turn, and then honking/screaming at the people who just had to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision. Not a one-time observation.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I seriously wish we’d stop pretending that that’s what this is about.  If there were a pill that provided the benefits of marijuana without the high, that’s what sick people would take.  And the number of “sick people” would drop like a rock.  Similarly, if marijuana were completely legal, the number of “sick people” would plummet.  I have no problem with you smoking yourself silly, but let’s stop lying about why that’s happening for a large percentage of the people who are claiming to be “sick.” 

  • PragmaticProgressive

    In most businesses, there’s insurance for that.  See, for example, the recent story about BUSD getting sued for the unprofessional counselor who is still — still! — employed there.  They covered most of the legal expenses with their insurance policy.  

  • Charles_Siegel

    There is a good case for a stop light there similar to the one at MLK and Channing.  That light does not let traffic through, because we don’t want Channing to become a short-cut for cars.  It does allow bikes and pedestrians to cross safely.

    This stop light was always needed for bikes and children crossing to Rosa Parks.  Now it is needed more than ever.

  • TN

    Rosa Parks School is located on Allston Way between 7th Street and 9th Street. There is already a traffic light at Allston Way and San Pablo Avenue.

    There is no need for a traffic light at Channing Way at San Pablo Avenue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomangell Tom Angell

    At this point it seems like those in the Justice Department are doing all they can to jeopardize Obama’s re-election effort, what with medical marijuana polling at 80 percent nationally (much higher than Obama or Romney, BTW). He could seriously lose swing state Colorado over this if enough young people stay home or vote for Gary Johnson instead.  Wake up, David Axelrod!

  • bgal4

    L.A. City Council bans medical marijuana dispensaries
    L.A. will order all 762 medical pot dispensaries to close immediately, but
    City Council also asks staff to draw up a measure allowing original
    shops to stay open.
    July 25, 2012| By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
    The new ordinance will allow patients and their caregivers to grow
    and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer. But activists
    complain that few patients have the time or skills for that, with one
    dispensary owner saying it costs at least $5,000 to grow the plant at
    home.Councilman Jose Huizar said the ban, which received a
    last-minute show of support from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and police
    Chief Charlie Beck, will help bring peace to neighborhoods that he says
    have been tormented by problem dispensaries. “Relief is on its
    way,” he said, noting that the ban would allow the city to close shops
    without having to prove that they are violating nuisance or land-use
    laws, as is the case now. 
    Council members said that in the meantime, something had to be done
    to reduce the number of dispensaries, which outnumber Starbucks coffee
    shops in Los Angeles two to one, according to Councilman Paul Krekorian.

    Beck,
    who appeared before the council, said dispensaries can be hot spots for
    crime, citing burglaries, armed robberies and killings. In a letter to
    lawmakers, he said most pot shops are “for-profit businesses engaged in
    the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.”

  • Anon

    Not sure about that, but it’s certainly innercity drug trafficking

  • Haselstein

    The news release has a broken link. 

  • Irisandjules

    We observed the same a few times down at the old location (erratic driving) – it’s good to hear that others observed a similar issue.

    We feel our neighborhood is already “fragile” – will the security associated with BPG “help” the neighborhood or will we see an increase in vandalism, drug paraphernalia, and trash. Not sure. 

  • bgal4

    Contact BPG and work out details directly, they are not a rogue operation like
    3PG or Forty Acres, it is in their best interest to be a good neighbor.

  • Brad

    Please feel free to contact me, the community liaison, Brad Senesac @ 510-847-1401 or @ brad@berkeleypatientsgroup.com for any questions, comments or concerns. As mentioned in several of the posts we strive to be the best community member possible and we’re for over 12 years in the old location and hope to attain those same results, if not better, in the new location. Thank you all for your comments and concerns.

  • The Sharkey

    I agree. Let’s just legalize it for adults and regulate/tax it the same as cigarettes and be done with it. The prohibition on marijuana in this country is just ridiculous.

  • The Sharkey

    I saw that exact same driving maneuver and near collisions multiple times.

    Impaired bicycling, too. BPG needs to stop letting people “medicate” on their premises and then drive/bike home.

  • Irisandjules

    Thank you. Very good advice.

  • Irisandjules

    This new location will not allow “medicating on the premises.” But we are worried that they will move one block in and medicate where we are – and then perhaps cause problems. 

  • Guest

    Thank you for not being a rogue/illegal operation like 3Pgs and actually caring about the community’s concerns.

  • Chris

     Agreed – plus the additional people presence and security after hours will hopefully have a positive effect on the drug deals that happen around Lo-Cost Liquor and EBay Nursery after hours.

  • Chris

     I heard some neighbors, whose property abutted the parking lot, complain about car/music noise. Not sure if it was dealt with.

  • Chris

     Agreed!

  • Charles_Siegel

    Did you ever try to bicycle on the Channing Bike Blvd? 

    The light at Channing and MLK was put in to accommodate bicyclists, and biking across San Pablo on Channing is just as hard as biking across MLK ever was.

    Note that the earlier commenter I was replying to wrote:
    “with kids using Channing, the bicycle boulevard to get to school, Rosa
    Parks, which is less than half a mile from the proposed site.”
    Apparently, many children bike on the Channing bike boulevard, though the school is on Allston.

  • TN

    Yes, I do bicycle on Channing Way. And I also regularly cross San Pablo at Channing on foot. I live in the immediate area. In normal traffic, it is not difficult.

    Keep in mind that Channing is one block north of the controlled intersection at Dwight Way. And it is two blocks south of the controlled intersection at Allston Way. This means as those traffic lights turn, big gaps in traffic are created and this gives bicyclists and pedestrians clear opportunities to cross at Channing. Even in busier times of the day, because there is a center parkway divider, there is a relatively safe place to wait while the traffic clears.

    I have a couple of reasons for objecting to a traffic light at Channing. First, it adds another point of delay for traffic on San Pablo. Keep in mind here that going south there are traffic lights at Delaware, University, Addison, Allston and Dwight. San Pablo Avenue is also a major public transit corridor. Even with bus priority at traffic signals, the already fairly slow speed for a bus will be further slowed.

    Secondly, it makes crossing San Pablo at Channing on foot or bicycle take longer. As it currently is, we can cross whenever there is no traffic or when the vehicles yield the right of way and stop. With a signal, even if there is absolutely no traffic, if the red pedestrian light is on, it will be illegal to cross. Given that the signalling cycles at Dwight and Allston take long times to complete, and that the signal at Channing would need to be coordinated with them, the wait for a pedestrian or bicyclist will be fairly long on average.

    We don’t need to slow down pedestrian movement. We need to make walking more efficient.

    For those who feel safer crossing at a controlled intersection, there are Dwight Way and Allston Way. I use these some times at dusk or at night or in bad weather when I think that I might not be as visible. But mostly I cross at Channing because it is relatively easy, quick and safe to do so.

  • Guest

    (did I just actually agree with the Sharkey?)

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Actually, there is, because as Charles said, Channing is a Bicycle Boulevard,
    but since safe easy crossing is not possible at Channing and San Pablo, through
    bikes use Dwight and add to the existing congestion there. It’s unsafe for
    cyclists because Dwight really isn’t wide enough to support bike traffic in
    addition to the current heavy car traffic and bus  line. Channing is MUCH less
    travelled in that area and safer for bikes.   A signal with bike features will make the BB work well. 

  • Guest

     there is a pill called Marinol but many sick people can’t take it b/c you can only take it orally and that doesn;t work if you are nauseated

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Many sick people, perhaps. But not any “sick people.”.

  • Brad

    Update from BPG, we will be hosting, for the soon to be new neighbors, a Meet & Greet at the 2366 San Pablo Ave Location tonight August 13, from 6:30PM – 8:30PM. There will be light refreshments and folks will be able to ask questions plus get a chance to view the proposed renovations to the location. Brad Senesac the community spokesperson for BPG will be on hand to talk with everyone about the project.

  • w_berk

    I live just around the corner from that intersection, and ride across it almost daily. All it takes is patience. Even at rush hour the stoplights nearby mean that a gap will inevitably appear. If I am in a hurry, or with my kid, we dismount and use the crosswalk. Because I also drive and like to be able to make left turns there, I do *not* want a light like at MLK/Channing. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.greenberg.737 Jonathan Greenberg

    I am amazed there is public opposition to medical cannabis when major pharmaceutical companies spread their deadly chemicals with our total trust.  Total Hypocrisy.  Safe access is the only way to control something. 

  • farmer

    its not intoxicated drivers so much as people in a hurry to get high, the fault lies in impatience 

  • Thepeople

    !