The Alameda County Superior Court issued a writ of possession Thursday, which, when served, will put the 40 Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective on eviction notice.
Last week, a jury found the group — located at 1820 San Pablo Ave. — in violation of Berkeley city code, stating that cannabis collective operation in commercial zones is illegal. Clarence Soe, landlord of 40 Acres, decided to take legal action against his tenant, Chris Smith, after the city issued several cease-and-desist notices to both parties in December.
The issue of the operation of Berkeley’s medical marijuana collectives has become a tenuous one due to conflict over city zoning code, which makes a particular distinction between medical cannabis “collectives” and “dispensaries.”
The 40 Acres collective is one of two medical marijuana collectives that have come under scrutiny in recent months by city zoning officials. The other collective, Perfect Plants Patient’s Group, or 3PG — which operates at 2840-B Sacramento St. — has been accused by members of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association of contributing to an increase in crime in the area directly surrounding the store.
Soe decided to bring suit against both Smith and 40 Acres after city pressure grew over the collective’s continued operation.
“We feel that the city of Berkeley has taken a more personal role in obstructing our Berkeley grown business,” Smith said in an email.
However, many residents feel that the city has taken a passive role in its enforcement of code violations since the city first issued letters to the 40 Acres and 3PG groups in December.
Although crime has not been a major factor in 40 Acres’ continued operation, incidents in the area surrounding 3PG caused residents to take action by threatening to sue 3PG’s landlord, Lian Rui Tan, with a barrage of small claims suits in October.
“(The 40 Acres suit) is an example of what needed to happen, because the city has not done its job,” said Ryan Kerian, a member of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association, which was founded in response to 3PG’s continued operation.
The City Council will address 3PG’s continued operation at its Tuesday meeting, where it will consider the Zoning Adjustments Board’s Oct. 11 recommendation that the operation be declared a public nuisance due to the assessment that it is located within 600 feet of Longfellow Middle School, which would be a code violation.
However, Eric Thomas, 3PG’s managing member, claims the group is located 619 feet from the school. Additionally, he disputes the fact that littering and violence have increased as a result of 3PG’s operation.
“There are a lot of false claims that these people need to figure out,” Thomas said. “To see Colorado … and Washington ahead of us, where they legalized it for recreational use, and we’re here 15 years later having to work out collective/dispensary wording issues — I think Berkeley has a chance to step up to the plate to be a world leader for California and the rest of areas to follow suit.”
The city would not comment on the results of the 40 Acres lawsuit.
“I expect that the City Council will vote unanimously — or near unanimously — to declare 3PG a public nuisance … but I expect them to take little to no action in shutting down the collective,” Kerian said.