11 groups vie to open Berkeley’s 4th cannabis dispensary

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
Marc Weinstein, the owner of Amoeba Music,  wants to open a cannabis dispensary next door to the store at 2465 Telegraph Ave. Photo: Tom Dalzell

The owner of Amoeba Music, former managers of the largest cannabis dispensary in Oakland, a current Berkeley medical cannabis commissioner, and a group that has filed numerous lawsuits against the city, have all applied to open the fourth dispensary in Berkeley.

Most of the 11 applicants want to locate their dispensaries along Berkeley’s main arterials, including San Pablo Avenue, University Avenue, Shattuck Avenue, and Telegraph Avenue. All are not-for-profit entities that vow to give back to the community in many ways.

The applicants predicted a range of incomes, saying their dispensaries would gross from a low of about $1.2 million to a high of $4.6 million in their first year of operation. In their third year, the applicants predicted the dispensaries would bring in from $2.1 million to $9.5 million.

The applicants come from Hayward, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Hercules, and Vallejo, although most of the applications include a Berkeley resident as well.


All the applicants had to secure a location that fit Berkeley zoning codes; had to have the Berkeley Police Department do a criminal history check; had to submit financial projections; submit a business plan; show a security plan; discuss neighborhood compatibility; talk about what kind of medical cannabis would be sold, and complete a medical cannabis competency test, among other details. They also had to pay an $878 application fee.

                       Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

Berkeley Planning staff will now vet the applications to see of they are complete (one group already dropped out) said Elizabeth Greene, the planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission. This includes making sure the proposed locations are 600 feet from any school and not too close to any of the three existing dispensaries. Staff will whittle the eligible applicants to ten. If participants decide to enter Round 2, they will have to pay $2,948. They will have to pay the same amount to enter Round 3.

Planning staff, and then the Medical Cannabis Commission, will evaluate the candidates on a number of factors, including location, community benefits, environmental benefits, labor and employment, local enterprise, qualifications of principals, and other criteria. The top five finalists will have to hold a public meeting in their respective neighborhoods.

Greene said she hopes to present five finalists, ranked by the Medical Cannabis Commission, to the City Council in six months to a year.


The 11 applicants are:

  • The Apothecarium Berkeley, an offshoot of The Apothecarium, located in San Francisco’s Castro district. It would be located at 2578 Shattuck Ave, between Blake and Parker. Its principals are Ryan Andrew Hudson, who will be the executive director, Michael Ryan Cooper Thomsen, who is the Chief Operating Officer, Bianca Blesching, who lives in Berkeley, Uwe Karsten Bleshching, who also lives in Berkeley, Anthony B. Shira, Scott H Hawkins, and Arion A. Luce of Sebastapol.
  • Berkeley Innovative Health Group, Inc., which uses the Campanile as its logo. The proposed dispensary would be at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. The principals would be Soufyan AbouAhmed and Shareef El-Sissi, who are both directors of the Garden of Eden, a dispensary in Hayward.  The group has $250,000 for start-up costs and an investor willing to give $1 million, according to the application.
  • Berkeley Compassionate Care Center at 2465 Telegraph Ave., nestled between Amoeba Music and Zebra, a tattoo smoke shop. David Prinz would be the president, and Marc Weinstein, the owner of Amoeba, would be the treasurer. Steve Scott Cirelli is the other partner. The dispensary would be a union shop and would have solar panels on its roof, according to the application.
  • CRAFT – Citizens Research Alliance For Therapeutics at 1474 University Ave. between Shattuck and Milvia. The CEO is Alix Hadley who said she co-founded Berkeley first licensed home-based cannabis delivery service 2012 that now serves 2,000 members a year. Patrick Goggin is the general counsel. and Caroline Francese, who used to be the purchasing manager at Harborside Health, a large dispensary in Oakland, will be the general manager.
  • Releaf Alternative Healing at 1800 San Pablo Ave. between Hearst and Delaware streets. *It would be operated by Maurice Solis and Anh Nguyen-Solis, a married couple who currently run Releaf in Vallejo. That three-year old dispensary has served 11,000 patients.
  • Community Partnership 4 Health would be located at 1941A University Ave. between Bonita and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Seven people have formed a partnership to run this dispensary, including Charley Pappas, the chair of the Medical Cannabis Commission and the former operator of a dispensary in San Francisco. He is a Berkeley resident. The other partners are Jerome Rixter, Jr., David Cruz, Dorlista Reed, Daniel Clancy, and David Gonzalez.
  • Berkeley Alternative Medicine would be located at 1601 University Ave. between California and McGee avenues. Max Kandel and Anthony Burke are the co-principals and said they have lived in Berkeley for 20 to 25 years and have worked in the cannabis industry for ten years.
  • 40 Acres would be located at 1820 San Pablo Ave., the site the cannabis operation has been using until its recent relocation to 1510 Ashby Ave. Chris Smith and Toya Groves (a past member of the Medical Cannabis Commission) are two of the principals, along with Darrow Hudspeth II, a 4th generation Berkeleyan who has also worked as the also promotional and marketing field director for DEF jam records. Forty Acres had to leave its San Pablo site because the city declared it a public nuisance. Smith and Berkeley are currently fighting the issue in court.
  • The Cannabis Center would operate at 1436 University Ave. between Sacramento and Acton streets. Its three partners, Ryan Monsanto, Isaac Drake, and Rowell Banagan are all from Hercules and have been involved with the now-shuttered Hercules Health Center, a unionized dispensary.
  • Blum Boutique, run by the Berkeley Women’s Cannabis Alliance, would be at 2067 University Ave. between Shattuck and Milvia. Salwa Ibrahim, of Oakland, is the executive director. Other principals include Margaret Moore and Lillian King of Berkeley. Blum would specialize is offering rare and exotic strains not available elsewhere.
  • iCann Health Center would be located at 3243 Sacramento St., between Alcatraz Avenue and Harmon. Frances Sue Taylor, a Berkeley resident, would be the president. Jamaal Taylor would be the executive director. Others involved include Kitshwa (Kiki) Genama.

Initially, 12 organizations submitted applications by the March 20 deadline to open the fourth Berkeley dispensary. HopeNet, which once operated a dispensary in San Francisco, withdrew its application.

Update 5/8/15: This article has been updated to show that Caroline Francese is no longer affiliated with CRAFT. Also, Releaf is no longer looking at 1800 San Pablo Ave. Berkeleyside will update the story when their new location is finalized.

Related:
Forty Acres’ new cannabis site is illegal says Berkeley (04.30.15)
12 apply to operate Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary (03.24.15)

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