Local dispensary plans to stay open despite move

Jan Flatley-Feldman/Staff
Berkeley Patients Group, located on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, is one of the city's three licensed medical cannabis dispensaries.

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Despite reports that federal intervention may have forced its upcoming move, local medical cannabis dispensary Berkeley Patients Group insists that its recently revealed relocation from its current spot on San Pablo Avenue has been planned for some time.

Reports last month that BPG — the oldest and largest of Berkeley’s three dispensaries — had received a letter from the federal government last fall led many to speculate that the business had been warned they were operating in violation of federal law that requires a 1000-foot distance between schools and dispensaries, which would mean the dispensary would most likely have to relocate. The dispensary is located around the corner from two schools.

Documents revealed this week that the dispensary had signed an agreement Feb. 28 with the property owner for the dispensary’s location at 2747 San Pablo Ave. to vacate by May 1, 2012.

Dispensary officials have declined to comment on the details of the letter but said in a press release issued Thursday night that “BPG is not closing. We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon. We are grateful for the level of support we have received from the Berkeley community over the years.”

In the press release, Sean Luse, chief operating officer for the dispensary, said that “Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees.”

Many city officials and neighboring businesses have praised the dispensary for its professionalism and generous donations to the community.

Sean Bryson — who manages the Berkeley Tattoo Parlour across the street from the dispensary — said that the 24/7 security the dispensary provides make many in the area feel safer.

“It’s funny that they’re not supposed to be near schools, but when they’re run well, they actually improve safety in the neighborhood,” Bryson said.

Many have said the current federal restrictions on dispensaries will greatly limit the locations Berkeley Patients Group can relocate to in the city.

“We strive to operate a dispensary that is a model of compassion and legal integrity. BPG operates in strict compliance with the letter and the spirit of California’s medical cannabis laws,” the press release reads.

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.