Berkeley City Council hashes out agreement on city’s fourth medical marijuana dispensary

Rashad Sisemore/File

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Less than three weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to restrict Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries, Berkeley City Council unanimously greenlighted recommendations this week that blaze the path for a fourth marijuana dispensary in the city.

The council’s proposed regulations stem mostly from the Medical Cannabis Commission’s suggestions, which included appropriate security measures for dispensaries, regulation of edibles and permitted hours of operation.

Three and a half years ago, the passage of Measure T allowed for the establishment of a fourth dispensary, but the matter has been delayed numerous times. Now, the final vote on the proposed ordinance will be held July 1.

The commission recommended hours of operation for dispensaries to be from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but the council opted to require that dispensaries close by 9 p.m. The commission also suggested the establishment of six dispensaries, but council members decided to allow four and to review the limit in a year’s time.

“Big chunks of Berkeley do not have access or easy access,” said Rick Pfrommer, chair of the commission, referring to the current placement of dispensaries throughout the city.

Also hashed out at the meeting was the difference between collectives and dispensaries. A collective was defined as a source of medical cannabis produced in a residence. The council established that a collective may have four locations that may include a site for growing and distributing, among other uses. A dispensary, on the other hand, was defined as a business, requiring a license and only operating in commercially owned areas.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin voiced the concern that illegal dispensaries have been cropping up in his district but noted that distinguishing collectives from dispensaries would allow collectives to be better regulated.

“There’s a reason why we see these illegal dispensaries popping up,” Arreguin said. “There is a real critical demand on the part of patients in Berkeley.”

Contact Elizabeth Kurata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ElizabethKurata.