New medical marijuana collective raises questions about Berkeley’s zoning laws

Rashad Sisemore/Staff
The city of Berkeley sent Perfect Plants Patient's Group a letter in December notifying them they were in violation of the city's municipal code.

The recent opening of a medical marijuana collective in Southwest Berkeley has raised confusion as to the enforcement of a November 2010 ballot measure that regulates where medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries can be located.

The collective, Perfect Plants Patient’s Group, opened at its current location on Sacramento Street in early September and is seemingly noncompliant with Measure T, passed by voters last year, which states that only medical cannabis dispensaries with a city license can be located in commercial areas. Sacramento Street is zoned as a commercial area, according to city zoning maps.

Eric Thomas, who runs the collective, said he intentionally chose to open the collective in a commercial location.

“You can create a lot of traffic when you open a collective, and to have that in somebody’s neighborhood could open a whole bunch of cans of worms as far as issues of security and safety,” Thomas said. “With that being considered, we ended up finding a commercial location, and I understand that’s where there might be some issues.”

Perfect Plants Patient’s Group, along with 40 Acres, another medical marijuana collective in the city, is one of at least two known marijuana collectives to be located in a commercial area.

Stewart Jones, a member of the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission — the group responsible for recommending guidelines for the implementation of Measure T to the City Council — said the commission will discuss the issue at its Thursday meeting.

“We want to make sure that Measure T is enforced in the way it was intended to be enforced, and I doubt that this will be the last time the issue comes up,” Jones said.

City staff could not be reached for comment as of press time.

However, Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose office Thomas contacted for information before opening the collective, said action could be taken against the collective if it is found to be in violation of zoning laws.

“If they are in violation of the rules, then the city manager has the power to take action against them,” Worthington said. “You can’t open a collective in a dispensary area, and you can’t open a dispensary in a collective area.”

Worthington added that he made it clear to collective leaders that there are different rules applying to collectives and dispensaries within the city.

The collective’s presence in Berkeley comes as Thomas moves the group from its previous location in Vallejo after becoming aware that the collective was operating in an area that had been under a moratorium since 2006, prohibiting the licensing of new medical marijuana dispensaries.

“We decided to close doors in Vallejo and to come to Berkeley, and as we go through deliberations we’re just trying to find a home,” Thomas said. “Berkeley seems like a perfect fit, and if they’d like to restrict collectives to strictly  residential use, we’ll have to make a change, and we’re willing to.”

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article was accompanied by a photo with a caption containing an incorrect address. The correct address is 2840B Sacramento Street.