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- 08/27/2013 - MARK EPSTEIN / The Trauma of Everyday Life
- 08/24/2013 - The goat Rodeo Sessions
- 08/03/2013 - Book Signing and Discussion with Dave Kehr, followed by The Lawless Breed
- 06/24/2013 - BERKELEY PRIDE 365! First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriageâ€¦
Tag Archives: Berkeley Patients Group
After the Berkeley Patients’ Group’s plans to move into the old Sharffen Berger chocolate factory on Heinz and Seventh Street fell through in 2010, the medical cannabis dispensary turned its attention back onto its San Pablo Avenue home. If the organization, which serves hundreds of people a day, wasn’t going to be moving into larger digs, what could it do to make the experience better for patients?
In a word, remodel.
Over the last year, Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary … Continue reading »
After months of delay, Berkeley’s new Medical Cannabis Commission will meet for the first time on Thursday, ushering in, city officials hope, a new era of oversight and accountability.
For the past 15 years the medical marijuana business has operated in a gray zone, legal in the city and the state but at risk from crackdowns by the federal government, which does not recognize cannabis as medicine. Despite this uncertainty, the medical cannabis industry has flourished in Berkeley, spawning three … Continue reading »
Rebecca DeKeuster’s first job at the Berkeley Patients Group in 2004 was selling medical marijuana to patients for $14 an hour.
Within six years, DeKeuster was one of Berkeley Patients Group’s most powerful executives and visible representatives. She served on the city’s medical cannabis commission, appeared regularly at conferences around the country, and spearheaded the 2008 campaign to pass Measure JJ, an initiative to improve city regulations surrounding cannabis. By 2011, DeKeuster’s salary had shot up to $125,000 a year.
But in an unexpected turnaround, the Berkeley Patients Group has filed a lawsuit against DeKeuster – as well as a new organization she heads, the Northeast Patients Group – claiming DeKeuster breached a contract when the BPG sent her to Maine to set up a new string of medical cannabis facilities. DeKeuster stole the organization’s trade secrets, formed a secret alliance with a new financial backer, and failed to repay $632,195 in loans, according to the lawsuit.
Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), the city’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, owes more than $6.4 million in back taxes and interest, according to the state’s Board of Equalization (BOE). The BOE confirmed their original assessment of taxes at its meeting in Sacramento this week. Berkeleyside revealed the tax dispute earlier this month.
Elisabeth Jewel, the lawyer lobbyist representing BPG in the case, told Berkeleyside that the group will apply to the BOE’s “offer in compromise” program. “There’s no way that Berkeley Patients Group can pay $6 million in taxes,” she said. “The purpose of the offer in compromise program is to come up with a plan that keeps a taxpayer in business.”
Jewel said that the BOE made clear in its hearing this week that it wanted to find a way to keep BPG solvent. The BPG application will be made soon, according to Jewel. … Continue reading »
It’s been four months since the Berkeley Patients’ Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue received formal notice that it owes the state $639,000 in back taxes, yet the group still doesn’t know how it is going to pay its bill.
The medical cannabis group, which has deliberately kept itself small to retain its customer-friendly atmosphere, sells about $1.8 million of medical marijuana each year, according to its manager Erik Miller. While that might sound like a lot, by law the group cannot make any profits. Those funds just pay for the cannabis, the rent, and the salaries of 11 employees. There are no hidden or stashed funds with which to pay back the government, he said.
“That’s the perception, that we are rolling in money here,” said Miller earlier this week. “It’s not true. I drive an 18-year old car.”
Complicating factors are the new taxes that Berkeley is imposing on its three dispensaries. The Patients Care Collective must pay a 2.5% tax on the cannabis it buys and a 2.5% tax on the cannabis it sells – on top of the state’s sales tax.
So far, the group has not passed on its increased costs to customers, said Miller. He is not sure what will happen when the collective has to start paying back the tax.
“I just couldn’t see raising the price higher. We’ve absorbed the (tax). We’ve cut expenses. We’ve all taken a pay cut in order not to raise the price for the patients.”
The state Board of Equalization is contending that the Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest and largest medical cannabis dispensaries in California, owes $6 million in back taxes, Berkeleyside has learned.
The board claims that the dispensary on San Pablo Avenue did not pay taxes on the medical marijuana it sold from July 2004 to June 2007 and now owes $4.4 million in taxes and about $1.6 million in interest.
The charges come on the heels of a September 2010 ruling in which the Board of Equalization determined that another Berkeley cannabis collective, Patients Care Collective, had to pay $639,000 for back taxes it owed from January 1, 2005 to September 8, 2008 on the sales of cannabis and marijuana cookies.
The Berkeley Patients Group, which has about 13,000 members and serves 800 to 1,000 patients each day, is contesting the charges, according to Elisabeth Jewel, whose firm Aroner, Jewel, & Ellis advises BPG on governmental regulations. Until February 2007, the laws regarding the collection of taxes for the sale of cannabis were murky, which is why the BPG did not pay, she said.
“There is no allegation of malfeasance in terms of collecting a tax and not paying it,” said Jewel. “The Berkeley Patients Group contends it was not clear to them that they had to pay sales taxes on what they consider medicine.”
The Board of Equalization will hold a hearing on the charges at its February 22-24 meeting in Sacramento. While the board would not officially confirm there is a claim pending against BPG, a spokesman did confirm the BPG hearing was on the agenda, which has not yet been made public. Berkeleyside learned about BPG’s late tax payments from a source close to the board, who asked not to be named.
In a sign of the growing professionalization of the medical cannabis industry, Mark Rhoades and Ali Kashani, the owners of the Berkeley development company Citycentric Investments, have teamed up with Debby Goldsberry, a founder of the Berkeley Patients Group, to open a number of medical marijuana facilities around the East Bay.
Rhoades, Kashani, and Goldsberry have applied to open a cannabis dispensary in Albany and are planning to apply to open another in Oakland.
On Saturday, at the California NORML conference in Berkeley, the trio advertised their plans for a new Oakland collective they hope will combine an aesthetically appealing space with a large range of social services. They hung up a big banner on the second floor of the David Brower Center announcing the ARCH Collective, which stands for the Angel’s Retreat for Cannabis Health, to solicit prospective members.
There are only two large dispensaries in the East Bay, Harborside Health Center and BPG, and they are both over capacity, said Goldsberry. Since the rest of the dispensaries in the East Bay are small, there is an urgent need for a new large facility that can accommodate the growing number of medical cannabis patients, she said.
“There’s a war on drugs out there,” said Goldsberry, who along with Rhoades was a speaker at the conference, which looked at next steps for marijuana laws in California. “We want to make a gathering place that people feel comfortable hanging out in. We want to create a place to retreat, a place to come and get healthy, get recharged and then go out back in the world.” … Continue reading »
Berkeley Patients Group, the city’s largest marijuana dispensary, not only hopes to go into the large-scale growing business in Berkeley, but in Oakland as well.
Debby Goldsberry, a founder of BPG, told the Associated Press that the group will apply to become an industrial grower in Oakland, which started accepting permits Monday for the creation of four large-scale cannabis grow sites. The cost of the permit will be $211,000.
The Berkeley Patients Group … Continue reading »
Berkeley residents will vote on two ballot measures on Tuesday that could lead to a greatly expanded medical cannabis industry in the city – and hundreds of thousands of new dollars for the city’s coffers.
Measure T would increase the number of places that sell marijuana from three to four, and also permit six 30,000-square-foot indoor growing areas in the city’s industrial zone in West Berkeley. These places would not be open for customers, but would be used to grow cannabis, test it, distill it into tinctures or creams, or cook it into food products.
Measure T would also explicitly permit medical cannabis collectives to operate in residential neighborhoods, but limit the size of their grow operations to 200 square feet. Collectives are usually composed of a small group of people who come together to grow cannabis for their own use. Sometimes they sell their excess marijuana to the dispensaries.
Measure T would also dissolve the current Medical Marijuana Commission created by Measure JJ and replace it with one whose members are appointed by the City Council.
Measure S would place a tax on medical cannabis sales – up to 2.5% for medical cannabis and, if Proposition 19 passes, as much as 10% for recreational marijuana. Raising the tax from its current level of $1.20 per $1,000 of gross receipts to $25 per $1,000 of gross receipts would bring the city approximately $460,000 a year, according to a staff report.
The city’s existing dispensaries have split on whether to support Measures S and T. The Berkeley Patients Group, the city’s largest dispensary located on San Pablo Avenue, is in favor of the measures, while Berkeley Patients’ Care Collective, located on Telegraph Avenue, is opposed.
The Berkeley Patients Group, which has put money in the Yes on T measure as well as Proposition 19, supports the new measures because it would like to be more in control of the cannabis products it sells, according to spokesman Brad Senesac. Currently, the dispensary purchases marijuana, tinctures, and food products from independent growers and collectives. The BPG hand inspects all cannabis that comes into the dispensary to make sure it meets the group’s standards. BPG could better control its product if it also grew some, he said.
BPG would probably submit an application to be one of the organizations that sets up a grow operation in West Berkeley, said Senesac.
The Berkeley Patients’ Care Collective, in contrast, believes that Measure T gives too much power to the city council and does not leave enough decision making authority to those involved with the day-to-day workings of the medical cannabis business, said Erik Miller, a manager. He is not convinced that city council members will appoint people who really know the business since they have not been particularly friendly to the cannabis community, he said.
Measure T also gives the city council the power to make future amendments to the initiative, rather than turning it back to the voters.
“I don’t know why Berkeley voters would want to give up their rights to make decisions on this,” said Miller.
The BPCC is also concerned that the passage of Measure S will make medical cannabis too expensive for some of its customers since it will be taxed twice. The tax placed on marijuana will really be $50 per $1,000, not $25 per $1,000, said Miller. When the collectives sell the pot to the dispensaries, they will have to pay a tax on that transaction. When the dispensaries sell it to their customers, they must place a tax on the marijuana, said Miller. Those added costs will be passed on to customers, he said.
Wendy Cosin, the city planner who staffs the Medical Marijuana Commission, said she thought Measure S would permit this double taxation.
However, Measure T states that the new Medical Marijuana Commission will establish standards for any new dispensary that opens. Those new requirements will make it mandatory for a new dispensary to provide low-cost cannabis to low-income patients, as well as some organically grown marijuana.
Berkeley Patients Group, the largest of Berkeley’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, is providing consulting services to the company that won licenses for half of the newly permitted dispensaries in Maine.
SF Weekly reported today that BPG had in fact invested “over $100,000″ in the Northeast Patients Group. According to Brad Senesac, director of communications for BPG, the relationship is purely an advisory one and no investment was made. Senesac said that Northeast Patients Group … Continue reading »
The City Council will consider tonight putting a measure on the November ballot to increase the business license tax on its three marijuana dispensaries. They currently pay $1.20 per $1,000 of gross receipts, which nets Berkeley about $22,000 a year.
The proposed ballot measure would amend the tax rate from 0.8% to 1.8%. In comparison, … Continue reading »
The controversial move of Berkeley Patients Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, from San Pablo Avenue to the old Scharffen Berger factory has been stymied by a local developer buying the building, reports Doug Oakley in the Berkeley Voice.
Wareham Development, one of the more vocal opponents of the move, has acquired the building on the corner of Heinz and Seventh Street. Wareham owns a number of properties in the area and had threatened legal action of … Continue reading »
In a closed session meeting last night, the Berkeley City Council agreed to let a medical marijuana dispensary move into the old Scharffen Berger building on the corner of Heinz and 7th Street. A number of nearby organizations, including the Ecole Bilingue private school, supermarket Berkeley Bowl West and a local developer, had opposed the move.
The dispensary, the Berkeley Patients Group, will move from its existing site on San Pablo Avenue.
The Ecole Bilingue objected to the … Continue reading »