Berkeley City Council: Let’s add 4th cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council, Oct. 16, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley City Council on Tuesday adopted regulations put forth by the Medical Cannabis Commission. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The Berkeley City Council took a huge step Tuesday night towards the approval of a fourth medical cannabis dispensary, but deferred passing an ordinance until July 1.

The Council voted unanimously to adopt regulations put forth by the Medical Cannabis Commission, with some amendments, to set up a process to select a fourth dispensary and the guidelines for selection. The council also indicated they wanted to adopt new rules to better regulate both dispensaries and the smaller, less formal, cannabis collectives.

The approval comes three and a half years after Berkeley residents voted for Measure T in 2010, which called for a fourth dispensary. Just a few weeks ago, Mayor Tom Bates said the political environment, with the federal government cracking down on medical marijuana operations, made it too uncertain for Berkeley to go forward with an additional dispensary.

But other councilmembers felt the city had already taken a long time to approve the fourth dispensary and it shouldn’t be postponed any longer.

The Medical Cannabis Commission had recommended that Berkeley open six dispensaries to meet the demand, but council members decided that was too many, too fast. The council members approved a fourth in principle and agreed to look at the situation again in a year.

The ordinance that will come before council on July 1 sets up new guidelines for collectives. It requires them to get a fire and electrical inspections before getting a business license and limits them to operating out of just four locations. The council also decided that all collectives and dispensaries should close by 9 p.m. The current closing time is 10 p.m.

The council also decided that only cannabis edibles manufactured in Berkeley need to be tested; those made elsewhere don’t. They will also require all dispensaries and collectives to have 2 percent of their members be low income, among other rules.

The discussion revealed some interesting information about the shape of the medical marijuana community in Berkeley. While current law requires all collectives to have business licenses, only one collective has gotten one, according to Elizabeth Greene, the planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission. While no one knows exactly how many collectives there are in Berkeley, City Councilman Kriss Worthington said he knows of “a couple hundred collectives.” He said he thought they had not gotten business licenses because they are so informal.

“Most are social networks; they don’t operate as businesses,” said Worthington. “They hang out together and one or two of them grow and share it with the social networks. It’s very informal. It’s not a business. They’re not trying to get rich. They are trying to take care of one another.”

The City Council discussion came on the first day of an appeal hearing by Chris Smith, the owner of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Grower’s Collection. Berkeley informed Smith in October that his operation at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue was a public nuisance because it was operating as a dispensary. Berkeley also said it was illegal because it was a collective operating in a commercial zone when collectives must be located in residential zones.

Smith has argued that Forty Acres existed before Measure T and should be grandfathered in place.

The hearing is closed to the public despite the attempt of Smith’s attorney’s to open it up to press and others. It is expected to run through Thursday.

Related:
Berkeley still battling Forty Acres cannabis collective (06.12.14)
Berkeley will again consider a 4th cannabis dispensary  (06.03.14)
Berkeley delays decision on fourth dispensary (09.20.13)
Berkeley to consider 4th medical cannabis dispensary (09.17.13)
Berkeley delays fourth medical cannabis dispensary (06.13.13)
Berkeley Council declares Greenleaf a public nuisance (06.05.13)
Officials oppose Fed’s suit to shut dispensary (05.18.13)

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  • D’oh

    Well now they can just drop that pesky case against 40 Acres and absolve themselves of any responsibility to mitigate what apparently is a public nuisance.

  • DisGuested

    Bud and circuses…

  • batardo

    Legalization at the retail level is causing a lot of change in the supply chain economics. Some of those changes are explosive growth at the production level. Interesting presentations below regarding some of the ecological impacts. Anecdotally I can relate that things look very different up north now, and for those who are curious all you need to do is educate your eye on what to look for and start zooming in with Google maps or Google Earth. You might be surprised.

    http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/swamp/docs/cabw2013/twentytwo_mj_impacts.pdf

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/5townp8jkda03mn/2013.01.23.Bauer.CDFW%20Marijuana%20Impacts.ERTF.pdf

    http://bofdata.fire.ca.gov/board_business/binder_materials/2013/october_2013/marijuana_symposium/sbauer_impactsfrommarijuanacultivationboardofforestry.pdf

  • John Freeman

    Two things:

    First: I’m curious if Berkeleyside has heard any backchannel hints that council is moving forward here because of legal risks to the city of further delaying.

    Second: I believe that this bit is inaccurate in a subtle way:

    The discussion revealed some interesting information about the shape of the medical marijuana community in Berkeley. While current law requires all collectives to have business licenses, only one collective has gotten one, according to Elizabeth Greene, the planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission. While no one knows exactly how many collectives there are in Berkeley, City Councilman Kriss Worthington said he knows of “a couple hundred collectives.” He said he thought they had not gotten business licenses because they are so informal.

    The staffer who said that licenses are required was speaking in the heat of a larger discussion.

    I think her point got slightly mangled in translation.

    What appears to be the case is that all collectives that are businesses must be licensed. Collectives which are not businesses do not require a license.

    The licensing requirement is found in BMC 9.04.136. Certain “Medical Cannabis Businesses” must obtain a license and may have tax obligations. The relevant word here is “business”, which the code defines in 9.04.010.

    Collectives which are not businesses do not require licenses and are not subject to Berkeley’s taxes.

  • EBGuy

    I’ll go on record and say that all collectives ARE businesses. That
    also appears to be the opinion of staff. However, the revised BMC uses
    MAY language, which allows collectives to organize as a “social network”. So we’ll continue with the wild west
    operations — though neighbors will now have more means to shutdown
    collectives that don’t follow the new BMC additions: violating
    operating hours or generating more than 5 member trips per day. On balance, a giant step forward.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    John, I did not hear any rumors that the city might be sued because of inaction. I have an email into the city to clarify Elizabeth Greene’s remarks and will update when I hear something.

  • John Freeman

    I’ll go on record and say that all collectives ARE businesses. That also appears to be the opinion of staff.

    I don’t think that is the official view of the city, at least not based on what was said during the meeting.

    Is there an argument for why you believe otherwise or is it just an assertion?

    But I agree with the concern here:

    violating operating hours or generating more than 5 member trips per day.

    Collectives which meaningfully have “operating hours” and “member trips per day” start to look more like businesses, that’s for sure. (Not all necessarily do.)

  • EBGuy

    If 40 Acres is a dispensary, they can’t operate out of a residential space. If it’s a collective, well — they’d be violating the new “5 member trips per day” rule.

  • batardo

    By all rights, it should sell for about the same price as lettuce. The sooner you see fields of pot growing along I-80 through Fairfield the better. Right now we have unregulated water diversion, silt, fertilizer and pesticide run-off in the river watersheds in the northern counties. This is the problem with half-way legalizing.

  • John Freeman

    An example of what I hope their answer will clarify: Consider two patients, neighbors.who are assisting one another (say, splitting duties making edibles). Their activity are protected by Title 12’s provisions for collectives but surely the city is not claiming that all such combinations are businesses.

  • Eh

    Does lettuce reek as badly as marijuana? Do lettuce eaters walk down the sidewalk or camp out in front of businesses downtown blowing clouds of noxious smoke around children?

  • batardo

    Perhaps the problem is not the specific behavior, but the fact that we passively enable all sorts of obnoxious behavior by not challenging it – individually or collectively. For whatever reason we sure put up with a lot of crap. When I see a drunk bum peeing in a store front alcove I stop and yell at them, as I think everybody has a responsibility to do.

  • Faux-Experts Are So Tiresome

    I, for one, agree with you.