Tag Archives: Berkeley Patients Group

Free pot for the poor: Berkeley council codifies what many cannabis dispensaries already doing

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s medical marijuana dispensaries must provide 2% of their cannabis free of charge to very low-income residents under a law passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this month.

Individual patients who make under $32,000, or families that earn less than $46,000, qualify for the complimentary cannabis. The law further requires that the free marijuana “be the same quality on average as Medical Cannabis that is dispensed to other members.”

“We were happy with that,” said Charley Pappas, a member of the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. “It gets the council and the mayor focusing on patients. There should be access to the best medicine and the poorest people shouldn’t be excluded.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley will again consider 4th cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council will tonight consider two proposals regarding new operating guidelines for dispensaries and the creation of a ranking system to select new dispensaries. Photo: Flores y Plantas
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Five days after the House of Representatives passed groundbreaking legislation calling on the federal government to stop targeting legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries, the Berkeley City Council is set to discuss whether to allow a fourth dispensary to open.

But the council, which delayed a decision two times already, may delay it a third time when it meets tonight if Mayor Tom Bates has his way. The political climate is still too uncertain to guarantee that a new dispensary can open successfully, according to Bates.

“He is not in favor of it going forward at this time because of the continuing uncertainty at the federal level,” said Charles Burress, Bates’ spokesman. “It’s better to wait for further clarification. He hopes that eventually we can add a fourth one, but right now is not the time to do it.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley delays decision on 4th cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council will tonight consider two proposals regarding new operating guidelines for dispensaries and the creation of a ranking system to select new dispensaries. Photo: Flores y Plantas
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After a lengthy discussion Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council postponed approval of a fourth medical cannabis dispensary and a ranking system to select it.

The council also asked the Medical Cannabis Commission to refine proposed regulations concerning cannabis collectives. The council wants the panel to examine limiting the size of collectives in Berkeley, changing their closing time, and requiring them to apply for a permit that would allow the city to track them.

Several council members wanted to learn more about how to ensure the medical safety of cannabis available in Berkeley, and the finances and staff compensation at dispensaries. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to consider 4th medical cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council will tonight consider two proposals regarding new operating guidelines for dispensaries and the creation of a ranking system to select new dispensaries. Photo: Flores y Plantas
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Despite the recent federal crackdown on medical cannabis operations, the Berkeley City Council will discuss tonight expanding the number of dispensaries from three to four – and maybe to six – and refine the rules regarding collectives.

The suggestions reflect almost two years of work from the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission, which was created after Berkeley residents voted in 2010 to overhaul Berkeley’s medical marijuana laws. Voters agreed to permit large-scale growing areas and increase the number of dispensaries from three to four, but Berkeley has not done any of those things, in large part because U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has been clamping down on large medical cannabis operations, including Berkeley Patients Group.

In June, the City Council tabled discussion on the proposals. Mayor Tom Bates said then that the federal attitude made it all but impossible to site a new dispensary in the city. The delay in setting up a new dispensary meant Berkeley lost thousands of dollars of additional tax revenue. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley fights feds’ attempts to close cannabis business

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The city of Berkeley filed a claim Wednesday to stop the federal government’s attempts to shut down Berkeley Patients Group, the city’s largest medical cannabis dispensary.

The suit claims that the closure of BPG will materially harm the city because it will mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue. In addition, shuttering BPG, which serves 10,000 patients, will result in the proliferation of unpermitted dispensaries and more illegal street sales of marijuana in Berkeley, according to the claim, which was filed in U.S. District Court. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Patients Group pays fraction of tax bill

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The state Board of Equalization and Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) have worked out a compromise that reduces the dispensary’s delinquent tax bill from $7.5 million to $49,500.

Despite selling millions of dollars in medical cannabis each year and paying its top executives close to $1 million in salaries, BPG told the state it could not afford to pay the taxes and interest it owed for the years 2004 to 2007, according to a document prepared by the Board of Equalization. At its Dec. 18-19, 2012, meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept a compromise payment of $49,500.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley delays 4th medical cannabis dispensary

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The Berkeley City Council has delayed discussion on opening a fourth medical cannabis dispensary since the current federal attitude toward dispensaries has made it all but impossible to site them in Berkeley.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Councilman Darryl Moore made a motion to table consideration of a measure to establish rules for opening a new dispensary. Mayor Tom Bates seconded the motion and suggested the item return at an October meeting. The delay means that Berkeley could lose from $51,000 to $860,000 in anticipated taxes.

But in the current climate, there is no way a fourth dispensary could open, Bates said in an interview on Thursday. While Berkeley laws prohibit dispensaries opening within 600 feet of any K-12 school, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has indicated preschools should be included in that prohibition, said Bates. Haag recently filed a lawsuit against the landlord of Berkeley Patients Group, indicating that the dispensary’s new location at 2366 San Pablo Ave. was too close to two preschools. … Continue reading »

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Officials oppose Feds’ suit to shut pot dispensary

City Councilman Darryl Moore speaks out against a federal lawsuit that could shut down BPG. Sean Luse, BPG's COO, is on the left. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update 9:00 p.m.: US Attorney Melinda Haag told the Oakland Tribune  in a prepared statement that “we continue to take a measured approach and have only pursued asset forfeiture actions with respect to marijuana retail sales operations very near schools, parks or playgrounds, at the request of local law enforcement, or in one case, because of the sheer size of its distribution operations.”

Original story:

City and state officials and medical cannabis advocates vowed Wednesday to fight back against … Continue reading »

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The most important stories in Berkeley in 2012

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Berkeley in 2012 was filled with drama — a contested election, a failed nomination for a new school superintendent, a few missteps by the Chief of Police, and major changes at the University of California, among other events. Here’s a recap of the issues that had the deepest impact on Berkeley, plus a few fun ones thrown in.

City Government

The year got off to a tragic start with the untimely death of 37-year-old City Clerk Deanna Despain. She fell down the stairs of her Oakland home on Jan. 8. Her husband discovered her body when he returned from a late-night meeting. Their daughter was soundly asleep upstairs. Since then, Mark Numainville has been filling in as acting city clerk. In May, after serving as interim city manager for six months, the City Council appointed Christine Daniel permanently to the job. She replaced Phil Kamlarz, who had held the city’s top job for eight years. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Kids 'N' Clay, proposed new location
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TRIPLE ROCK Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley is planning to expand. Triple Rock and its engineering firm neighbors are teaming up to put a “new full service restaurant” in the empty space next to the existing beer joint, at 1920 Shattuck. The engineers will have the top floor and Triple Rock will have the 3,080-square-foot bottom, at 1912 Shattuck. Plans and layouts are subject to change, but there’s talk of a brewery and kitchen expansion and some upgrades, we hear from East Bay Beer. Plans include seating for about 95 guests and capacity for 118. Upon completion of the new space, the owner will “likely replace the kitchen of the existing Triple Rock … with increased bar space, increased brewing capacity or a combination of both” according to the application before the city. Proposed hours of operation are from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Expect completion in 2014. Triple Rock, 1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2749. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley moves to shut down cannabis operation

The exterior of Perfect Plants Patients Group shortly after it opened in September 2011. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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More than a year after it opened its doors in an apparent violation of Berkeley’s zoning laws, city officials are taking steps to shutter the Perfect Plants Patients Group (3PGs) at 2840-B Sacramento Street.

City staff will ask the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday to find that 3PGs is a public nuisance and is in violation of Berkeley’s municipal code. If the ZAB board agrees, the matter will be referred to the City Council for action.

The city believes that 3PGs is violating numerous zoning and municipal code laws: it is operating a retail outlet without a permit; it is operating as a medical cannabis dispensary without a permit; if it tries to claim it is a cannabis collective rather than a dispensary it is still operating illegally because collectives cannot be in commercial districts. 3PGs is also located just 546 feet from Longfellow Middle School. The law requires a 600-foot buffer.

“As a result of the above facts and investigation, it is apparent that Perfect Plants Patients Group cannabis operation at 2840-B Sacramento Street has repeatedly and consistently operated in violation of BMC Chapter 12.26 and the Zoning Ordinance,” states the staff report’s conclusion. … Continue reading »

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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
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[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. … Continue reading »

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Report: Berkeley Patients Group earned $15m in 2009

As Berkeley Patients Group prepared to shut its doors on May 1, it advertised its delivery services on a sign behind the reception desk. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley Patients Group took in $15 million and paid its top executives $911,000 in 2009, while only donating $18,083 to charities, according to a story released Wednesday by California Watch.

Etienne Fontan earned $357,529, Tim Schick earned $290,765, and Debby Goldsberry earned $263,299 in 2009, part of $3.3 million spent on labor costs, according to story. The medical cannabis dispensary, which operated at 2747 San Pablo Avenue until May, when the federal government forced it to close, spent $151,789 on security in 2009 and distributed $253,433 to marijuana advocacy organizations, according to California Watch. It made about a 40% profit on its products.

BPG officials had told the Oakland Tribune in 2009 that it donated about $300,000 a year to charities. … Continue reading »

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