Berkeley to discuss how to make marijuana regulations equitable

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Berkeley City Council will discuss proposed regulations for the operation of recreational and medicinal cannabis businesses at its special meeting Tuesday.

The proposed regulations and selection process for cannabis business licenses are designed to enable efficient and timely implementation, as well as create opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities to contribute to and benefit from the industry, according to the report.

New local regulations would govern how and where both medicinal and recreational cannabis businesses could operate in Berkeley, in addition to providing requirements for security, record keeping and reporting. Current regulations only allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries and manufacturers to apply for temporary adult-use cannabis permits.

“We need to get regulations in place promptly,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “Everyone knows that cultivation has been going on for years, and we need the regulations in place to protect people — both the workers and the consumers.”

The city of Oakland has already implemented cannabis regulations that prioritize applications for dispensary permits based on a number of criteria — for example, the city gives preference to low-income individuals or those previously incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses in Oakland.

“The idea is that you want to provide some equity to people that haven’t been part of this industry,” said Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb. “You have to explore how to do that and what that means. It’s good they’re having this discussion — we went through that a year ago — and hopefully what we went through will be helpful information for those folks.”

Kalb said the regulations have so far been met with a positive response and that many of the city’s applicants qualify for the equity criteria.

Councilmember Kate Harrison is aiming to make Berkeley’s equity criteria more “straightforward” than Oakland’s, which she called complicated. Harrison said she plans to inquire about making the criteria for low-income and formerly incarcerated individuals simpler.

The council will also decide on the number of dispensaries Berkeley will have and where they will be placed. Both Harrison and Worthington emphasized that the city is only setting a maximum, not a minimum, for the number of dispensaries possible.

The question of where to place the dispensaries addresses concerns regarding secondhand smoke, according to Harrison. She added that she was also hoping to find a way to preserve Berkeley’s tradition of marijuana collectives — places where people traded and sold marijuana.

Worthington’s main concern lies with the timing of the regulations.

“The most important thing is that we get a policy in place,” Worthington said. “(It’s) been delayed for way too long, and it’s time to get in it place as soon possible.”

Elena Aguirre covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @eaguirreDC.