Berkeley orders Forty Acres to stop cannabis operations

Berkeley officials contend that 40 Acres is operating an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres is operating an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View

The city of Berkeley has declared the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance and ordered it to cease and desist all its cannabis operations by Monday Oct. 28.

Gregory Daniel, Berkeley’s code enforcement supervisor, sent Forty Acres and its co-founder, Chris Smith, a letter on Oct 21 detailing the results of the city’s surprise Oct. 8 inspection of 1820 San Pablo Avenue. Daniel said that Smith’s four apartments are clearly being used for cannabis operations and there is no sign of residential use. That is a violation of Berkeley law since collectives are only allowed in residential areas and must be “incidental” to the use of the building, according to the letter. Not only does Smith not live at 1820 San Pablo Ave., but Forty Acres is operating in a commercial zone, which is illegal, according to city officials.

“Currently all rooms used by Mr. Smith are fully devoted to the operation of 40 Acres dispensary,” Daniel wrote in the cease and desist letter. “The October inspection … found no evidence of residential use. None of the units occupied by Mr. Smith and 40 Acres contained household items, living room furniture, bedroom furniture, kitchen or bathroom furnishings. There were no closets or clothing. None of the units contained a bathroom. Unit Two contained a kitchen sink and gas stove. However, there were no cooking or dining utensils or any other item common to a residential kitchen. Unit Eleven contained a counter and a sink, but no cooking facilities.”

But Smith’s attorney said there is no cannabis operation happening at 1820 San Pablo Avenue so there is nothing to “cease and desist.”

“The letter is erroneous,” said G. Whitney Leigh. “The letter makes numerous assertions. They say they saw this and they saw this and are going to conclude Mr. Smith is not living there. None of these assumptions are true.”

Chris Smith, co-founder of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Collective. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Chris Smith, co-founder of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Collective. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Smith and Forty Acres have until Nov. 5 to appeal the order.  If Smith and Forty Acres do not stop the cannabis operations by Oct. 28, however, they can be fined $2,500 or up to $10,000 if there are injuries, according to the letter.

The city of Berkeley has been trying to shut down Forty Acres for a number of years since officials believe it is a collective operating in a commercial district. Only three dispensaries are allowed to operate in commercial zones: Berkeley Patients Group, Berkeley Patients Care Collective, and the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley, or CBCB.

Voters approved a fourth medical cannabis dispensary in November 2010 but the City Council has not yet approved a law on how to pick that dispensary.

Berkeley has already shut two other collectives operating in commercial districts: Perfect Plant Patients Group and Greenleaf Collective.

Smith has filed a lawsuit against Berkeley claiming the city has discriminated against him because he is African-American and has denied him due process. Smith and Forty Acres have stated publicly they want to get the fourth dispensary license.

Smith has also filed a lawsuit against Clarence Soe, the owner of the property, to stop his eviction.

Daniel’s letter said one unit of Smith’s is being used as Forty Acres’ smoking lounge and dab bar. (At a dab bar a user inhales a puff of highly concentrated cannabis.) Unit Two is being used as Forty Acres’ office. Unit Three is being used as a supply, room, according to the letter. Unit 11 is being used as Forty Acres’ staff and reception room and the place where people register.

(To see the letter detailing Daniel’s findings, click here.)

Neighbors have also complained about Forty Acres’ operation. They told the city there is a heavy smell of cannabis, that people frequently double park and block traffic, that people sometimes park in front of driveways and refuse to move,  that people smoke cannabis outside in a smoke-free zone. Neighbors also told the city that the Forty Acres’ security guards do very little to discourage these violations.

Apparently a number of businesses are thinking about moving from the area because of Forty Acres, according to the letter. Others are reluctant to invest in the area.

Related:
Berkeley forcibly enters Forty Acres Cannabis Collective (10.09.13)
Court orders eviction of Forty Acres cannabis collective (11.09.12)
Berkeley moves to shut down cannabis operation (09.26.12)
Berkeley orders two cannabis collectives to shut down (02.22.12)
Rapid growth of cannabis collective raises concerns (11.29.11)

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  • Guest

    I am most deeply wounded by your harsh remarks. But I shall endeavor to carry on.

    I posed a series of questions to Mr. Smith. His answers do not, in my opinion, constitute a coherent and thorough response to those questions, but they (and his other posts on this thread) do reveal a certain amount of his thinking. One does begin to conceive a certain regard for Mr. Smith, because while his judgment is questionable, he shows remarkable energy in his own defense, and I note a refreshing absence of hostility in what must for him be a very trying situation (although in regard to the latter one must take into account the invisible hand of our “moderator”).

    Your screed, in its essence, abuses me for asking perfectly reasonable questions of Mr. Smith. You must inure yourself to the fact that people will, when confronted by the article above and Mr. Smith’s posts on this thread, have questions about the precise circumstances at 40 Acres, Mr. Smith’s attitude toward murder, and other things. Rather than criticizing this natural response to some very interesting material, you should try to encourage Mr. Smith to provide candid and complete responses.

  • Velociraptor

    Is your real name T-Rex?

  • safeaccessforall

    40 acres was a source of comfort for the disadvantaged and impecunious individuals. Without a proper place to medicate and relax you’re creating more issues that could other wise be alleviated. I think that your using Chris Smith as a scapegoat for the big issues that are plaguing the City of Berkeley. There are people in the city who are affluent an have a hand in the demise of this club. Instead of going the landlord Clarence Soe, who has allowed his tenants for the last 30 years to live in impaired conditions. But yet instead you go after a business owner who is doing things for the community ,a community that is deprived that no one seems to care or worry about.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    I 100% support the use of medical marijuana by people who need it. But all I ever see when I drive past your place are thugs, plain and simple.

  • James

    40 Acres has just as much of a right to operate as the 3 other dispensaries in Berkeley. The fact that the security guards are black doesn’t make them thugs. If people are doing drug deals around the corner, that’s not Forty Acres problem, that’s people being corrupt and selling medicine that Forty has provided legally to patients. If you think patients don’t go into BPG and CBCB then go around the corner and sell it to their buddies for double what they payed, you’re too naive to be having an opinion in the first place. If you don’t like Forty Acres, don’t go near it. Mind your own damn business. But there are patients who love and cherish this place, who look forward to coming here every week and buying their medicine because Forty provides good deals and a friendly social environment to medicate in. To every person who has a problem with Forty Acres, consider the fact that it actually means something to others, and put aside your selfishness to let people enjoy what they are legally paying for. Y’all need to smoke a blunt and chill the fuck out.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    This is seriously the most hilarious thing I have ever read on the interwebs. Thanks for making my day.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    It is not different. It’s been proven that pot dispensaries attract crime.

  • safeforall

    40 acres was a source of comfort for the disadvantaged and impecunious individuals. Without a proper place to medicate and relax you’re creating more issues that could other wise be alleviated. I think that your using Chris Smith as a scapegoat for the big issues that are plaguing the City of Berkeley. There are people in the city who are affluent an have a hand in the demise of this club. Instead of going the landlord Clarence Soe, who has allowed his tenants for the last 30 years to live in impaired conditions. But yet instead you go after a business owner who is doing things for the community ,a community that is deprived that no one seems to care or worry about.

  • T-Rex

    Actually It is a Name i’m known by field. Thank you for taking the time to make custom user to prove my birth name isn’t T-Rex you are awesome here’s your cookie

  • bgal4

    *If people are doing drug deals around the corner, that’s not Forty Acres
    problem, that’s people being corrupt and selling medicine that Forty
    has provided legally to patients.*

    you need to read the operating conditions for MM dispensaries, the owner/operator MUST have an effective plan to control for the diversion of product near the shop, such as banning those caught reselling product.

    but of course you are so chilled out that knowing the operating rules would be beyond your capacity.

  • safeforall

    what other clubs in berkeley offer reasonable prices to the disadvantaged ? or offer compassion without a 12 month waiting list or offer it at all? what other club offer safe access to all to medicate? dont worry i wait..

  • Guest

    If you don’t like Forty Acres, don’t go near it. Mind your own damn business.

    Hard to do since I live in the neighborhood and have lived here far longer than this place has been in business. Recent Yelp reviews say that the workers are hostile and high all the time, the product is overpriced, and they sell low-quality moldy product that is improperly stored.

  • Triceratops

    Funny to complain about other people not using their names and then not using your own.

  • The Consciousologist

    A lot of illegal and immoral things going on in Berkeley but those things are practiced by wealthy powerful people that think no one is watching. City officials, real estate agencies, universities and property hoarders do not own the people of Berkeley. Power to the People (stop hating)

  • T-Rex

    face book twitter instagram i can be found
    using it so what’s your point

  • tiredofthebs

    Wait. So 40 Acres was legal at one point. Not one Dinkelspiel article, nothing. The law gets amended, now 40 acres is a criminal enterprise that supports illegal drug sales?

    40 acres is the reason why there is a criminal element in West Berkeley?

    Where are the formal complaints from surrounding businesses, are they not public record?

    Logic in this forum tells me 40 acres being legal will remove the crime and illegal drug sales from West Berkeley…because its obvious there was no problem before the law was amended and placed 40 Acres in the crosshairs.

  • JM

    Has anyone come up with any suggestions to help the situation? Or just put Chris Smith under a microscope and point out the bad. Has anyone asked any patients that called 40 Acres home how all the negativity has affected them? Or are you all just so concerned with the “the thugs on the corner” since apparently black men can’t possibly be medical marijuana patients?!? This situation needs a fresh take from someone who isn’t going to judge based off race.

  • AZROYALE BAILEY

    This whole thing is bullshit, what would you people rather have? A place we’re the urban and minority community can peacefully engage in a neutral Manor where everyone is respected and appreciated and not look down upon as an individual. Everybody against this guy can’t be aware of the good he’s doing, you add holes only see weed and black people, I thought this racism was over, where is the equality? All I see is bunch of people disapproving what another group of people obviously needs to function properly. It’s medication from a doctor, but because people like me (people of color) are connected to MMJ, it’s another looked at as a “crime”, “public nuisance,” or something else that really means “Nigga Magnet,” the ignorance off ALL OF YOU FROM THE MEDIA, TO THE PUBLIC, TO THE OWNERS OF THE BUILDINGS, TO CHRIS SMITH TOO ALL OF YOU AS A COMMUNITY SHOULD FOCUS ON HOW TO WORK WITH EACH OTHER AND NOT AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. GIVE THE MAN CHRISTOPHER SMITH A REAL CHANCE TO BE A COMMUNITY MEMBER, STOP SUCKIN THE LIFE OUT OF THIS GUY.

  • Loche

    This place has literally been one of the best collectives I’ve ever visited. The staff is nice and welcoming. Even Chris will sit and have a smoke with you. I’d never want to see this place go!

  • Neighbor

    I personally love this place. At first I wasn’t so sure about these people hanging around my place. But as time grew I learned to love what they do. They really care about their customers. And that’s customer service you wont get at walmart.

  • pea diddy

    it’s sad to see people blinded by lies! Alcohol is a MAJOR problem in America!! Not a medical HERB/PLANT! Have you met an alcoholic?

  • Kooler

    I like this place. The staff are all nice welcoming and friendly. I think people here are overreacting.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    I am a recovering alcoholic for your information. Pot is addictive, as has been proven. And it is definitely relevant that pot “dispensaries” like 40 Acres encourage crime and stink up the neighborhood with pot smoke. I can’t wait till they’re gone.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    “basically legal” –okay, I’d love to see you try that line when you get pulled over for driving while impaired by pot.