Berkeley Patients Group, country’s oldest cannabis dispensary, celebrates 18th anniversary

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Ana Isabel Dias/Staff

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Berkeley Patients Group, or BPG, the longest continuously-operating medical cannabis dispensary in the country, invited customers to celebrate its 18th anniversary with a Halloween party Tuesday at 4:20 p.m.

The dispensary is known for its involvement in the Berkeley community. At Tuesday’s celebration, attendees received discounted products and sang “Happy Birthday” for the anniversary.

“They’re still going strong after 18 years,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “They’re still some of the main leaders of helping the national and state hysteria against cannabis.”

Debby Goldsberry, Don Duncan and Jim McClelland founded BPG in 1999, and since its founding, BPG has contributed financially to various local organizations while leading the push for citywide cannabis legislation.

“BPG is the only dispensary that’s been able to stay open continuously this length of time,” Goldsberry said. “It’s really through the hard work of the founders and the people who run it right now who have kept it open and running.”

Worthington said BPG developed health and safety standards for cannabis quality before the city adopted any such regulations. According to Worthington, these standards became a model for citywide requirements that were later adopted and are now standard in Berkeley.

The dispensary has also played an important role in organizing the community in favor of the legalization and regulation of cannabis, according to Worthington. In 2008, the dispensary worked to pass Measure JJ, which lifted limits on the sale and possession of medical marijuana in Berkeley. In 2010, they supported Measure T, which expanded Measure JJ and provided free cannabis to qualified low-income patients.

“They really helped to create the possibility of having a critical mass of public support for helping to create legal cannabis distribution networks,” Worthington said. “They’ve dramatically made Berkeley a better place.”

According to BPG spokesperson Lauren Watson, BPG donates to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center and the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, in addition to participating in the AIDS Walk San Francisco.

“The project (to found BPG) was implemented by (McClelland) in order to help people who were really sick, and in some cases dying,” Goldsberry said. “This was his vision.”

Goldsberry said that much of BPG’s success can be attributed to McClelland, who died of AIDS about a year after BPG’s founding.

Watson said in her email that the dispensary is now focused on improving service for current members as well as the adult-use market. She added that the legalization of recreational marijuana, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will bring a new consumer base to BPG.

“We look forward to serving the 21+ market, and we remain committed to our mission of serving our patients and community with compassion,” Watson said in her email. “We will continue to educate people about the powers of cannabis as a pathway to healing.”

Contact Olivia Nouriani at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @olivianouriani.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article neglected to include Don Duncan as a co-founder of Berkeley Patients Group.

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