City Council approves 4th cannabis dispensary at meeting

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council awarded a permit to the city’s fourth cannabis dispensary.

The council’s approval of the dispensary — met largely with cheers by a sympathetic public attendance — was followed by a recommendation from Councilmember Kriss Worthington to the planning commission to consider raising the city’s ceiling for cannabis dispensaries from four to six.

“The urgency of getting these approved is in the interest of public safety — to take cannabis out of the streets and sidewalks and to put it into a licensed, regulated environment,” Worthington said.

A proposed dispensary that would specialize in cannabis for the elderly, called iCANN Health Center, was chosen among six applicants at different locations for the permit. Though the measure to increase the limit on dispensaries has been a topic of City Council discussions for years, Worthington attributed its success Tuesday night to a strong class of applicants.

Since 2010, a city ordinance has allowed for only four cannabis dispensaries to operate in Berkeley. City Council began paving the way for the approval of the fourth dispensary in August 2014 after it solidified a selection process.

The item was passed with an amendment from Councilmember Darryl Moore to expedite the process in the hopes that it could be reviewed by the Planning Commission at its June 15 meeting.

Among the applicants was the Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which operates Amoeba Records on Telegraph Avenue and Haste Avenue. Citing Amoeba’s long-standing presence in the community and well-received presentation, Mayor Tom Bates stated at the meeting his belief that its application should be a priority for approval should the legal limit on dispensaries be raised.

Marc Weinstein, co-founder and co-owner of Amoeba music, said the praise from the council while not receiving the dispensary permit was bittersweet. He added that he remains hopeful the city will eventually raise the dispensary limit.

“We’ve created a business Berkeley can be proud of, and we want to do this in a business that means so much to people,” Weinstein said. “It’s the most spiritually uplifting product we can sell besides music.”

During public comment, community members expressed support for the approval of more dispensaries, although some voiced concerns about the additional strain the businesses might put on parking at their proposed locations.

At the meeting, the council also heard testimony from student activists Kristian Kim and John Penilla as part of a recommendation — unanimously approved by the council — to write letters to UC Berkeley and Alameda County urging them to drop the respective charges against them.

Scheduled discussion of an ordinance that would allow short-term rentals in Berkeley was deferred until the council’s May 31 meeting.

Prior to the regular meeting, the council discussed an update to the 2017 fiscal year budget as part of a special meeting. Council members discussed an update to the 2017 fiscal year budget, predicting an additional $27.9 million — or 8.4 percent — increase over the adopted budget.

Contact Alex Barreira at [email protected].

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