Berkeley’s oldest and largest medical cannabis dispensary to vacate location

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One of Berkeley’s three medical cannabis dispensaries will vacate its location at 2747 San Pablo Ave. in the coming months, leaving the future of Berkeley’s oldest and largest dispensary uncertain.

Berkeley Patients Group recently joined the growing number of dispensaries throughout the state that have been targeted by the U.S. Attorney over the past few months through letters warning them that they were operating in violation of a federal law that limits the proximity between dispensaries and schools or playgrounds to 1000 feet.

Although California law only requires a 600-foot distance between schools and dispensaries, many dispensaries throughout the Bay Area have been forced to close after receiving such letters since the federal crackdown began last fall.

According to a legal agreement between Berkeley Patients Group and the property owner signed on Feb. 28, the dispensary “agrees to cease all cannabis-related activities and remove all cannabis-related property from the premises by May 1, 2012.” The agreement was signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay.

Berkeley Patients Group did not return calls for comment on the matter, nor have they confirmed whether or not they received the letter in the first place.

In a statement to the nonprofit news agency California Watch, the dispensary said they remain “committed to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees.” Whether or not they plan to reopen elsewhere in the city therefore remains unclear.

Berkeley Patients Group is located just around the corner from two schools — private elementary and middle school Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley at 1009 Heinz Ave. and the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness at 1035 Grayson St.

According to Ecole Bilingue spokesperson Jennifer Monahan, the school is not particularly concerned with the dispensary’s proximity at the moment. In 2010, however, the school did raise some concerns when the dispensary considered moving to a much closer location, which was ultimately bought by someone else.

The 17,000-square-foot lot at 2747 San Pablo Ave. was listed for $2.5 million on Gordon Commercial Real Estate’s website as early as Wednesday. The listing includes approved plans to build a five-story building on the site intended for residential and commercial purposes.

“They’ve been providing a very important service for people who need medical cannabis,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore, who represents the dispensary’s district. “They have been great neighbors and supporters by making donations to local organizations.”

The dispensary has been operating since 2000 and offers services such as acupuncture and massage in addition to medical cannabis.

According to its website, the dispensary has been “working hard to establish a positive relationship with our neighbors, the city, and the police department.” The website encourages patients not to loiter in the area and to “be courteous to those who live and work nearby.” The dispensary also employs security guards to monitor the parking lot.

Peter Duddington, who works on San Pablo Avenue near the dispensary, said the security guards make him and others in the area feel safer.

“They’re really important to foot traffic for other businesses,” Duddington said.

Moore said he was not aware of the dispensary’s plans but hopes the dispensary will remain in the area if it does move from its current location.

“They’ve been absolutely marvelous. I would really hate to see them go,” Moore said.

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.