Tag Archives: Melinda Haag

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

Photo: Flores y Plantas/CC
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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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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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Sadness surrounds closing of Berkeley Patients Group

Security guards check the credentials of a patient on the last day of operations of Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The mood was somber Monday at Berkeley Patients Group as the 12-and-a-half-year old cannabis dispensary got ready to shut its doors.

Like every day, patients streamed in at a steady rate, handing over a doctor’s prescription and driver’s license to get inside. But many of them were also greeted with a hug and expression of gratitude.

“I want to thank you ladies for coming on our last day,” Joshua, a supervisor in the safety department who was working the security detail at the front door said to two patients. He asked that his last name not be used. “You will always be in our hearts and minds.”

Berkeley Patients Group is closing because the federal government informed its landlord, David Mayeri, in November that it might seize his assets if cannabis operations were not stopped. The letter from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag was part of a broad-based crackdown on cannabis operations around California, a push that has resulted in the closure of dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries. Berkeley Patients Group, which has 13,000 members, is the largest and oldest dispensary to be affected, however. … Continue reading »

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Concern over future location of cannabis collective

Front entrance to Berkeley Patients Group
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Last Tuesday afternoon, around 1:30pm, Rebecca, who describes herself as a “50ish” recent transplant from Los Angeles, headed over to the Berkeley Patients Group at 2747 San Pablo Avenue. For the past six months, ever since she moved north, Rebecca has gone to the medical cannabis dispensary once a month to get marijuana to help her with her insomnia brought on by menopause.

“It’s my favorite place,” said the Rockridge resident, who did not give her last name. “It just feels like a community place. The folks are very knowledgeable. I really rely on what they say.”

Rebecca does not know what she will do when BPG closes its doors on May 1, a casualty of the recent federal crackdown on dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of a school or park. She has visited other collectives, but none has made her feel as welcome as Berkeley Patients Group. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Patients Group says it is moving, not closing

Front entrance to Berkeley Patients Group
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Berkeley Patients Group, which had declined for weeks to confirm or deny that the federal government had told its landlord it had to move, sent out an email Thursday night saying it was not going out of business.

“Recent media reports have erroneously stated that Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest and well-respected medical cannabis dispensaries in California, is closing its doors,” Chief Operating Officer Sean Luse said in a press release. “The following statement provides accurate information on BPG’s status: Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees. BPG is not closing. We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon. We are grateful for the level of support we have received from the Berkeley community over the years.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s largest cannabis dispensary to close May 1

Cannabis plants for sale at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Medical cannabis patients in Berkeley will have a more difficult time getting marijuana after Berkeley Patient’s Group shuts down on May 1.

California Watch is reporting today that BPG has signed a legal agreement with its landlord, David Mayeri, to vacate the premises. The agreement came after Mayeri received a letter from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warning him there might be financial or legal repercussions if distribution of cannabis did not cease at that location.

“Berkeley Patients Group agrees to cease all cannabis-related activities and remove all cannabis-related property from the premises by May 1, 2012,” a legal document filed Feb. 28 in Alameda County Court states, according to California Watch.

Berkeleyside reported yesterday that Mayeri had put his property at 2747 San Pablo Avenue up for sale for $2.55 million. … Continue reading »

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Federal letter may make Berkeley Patients Group relocate

Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue
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The owner of the building that houses the Berkeley Patients Group has put it up for sale, further fueling whispers that the federal government sent a letter ordering the cannabis dispensary to shut down.

Gordon Commerical Real Estate is listing the property at 2747 San Pablo Avenue, which is owned by David Mayeri, as a development site for $2.55 million. The 17,500 square foot structure, built in 1953, is an old car dealership, and has a distinctive rounded front room with curved windows that once displayed automobiles. The property has permits in place for a five-story mixed-use building.

The East Bay Express reported in February that the head of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, said that BPG had gotten a letter from the federal government telling it to shut down. Officials from Berkeley Patients Group have declined to confirm or deny the reports that Mayeri received a letter from U.S. Attorney Melissa Haag. But well-informed sources who asked not to be named tell Berkeleyside that Mayeri got a notice in late November. … Continue reading »

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