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City Council vote declares marijuana collective nuisance, illegal dispensary

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JANUARY 21, 2015

A marijuana collective will be forced to shut down after Berkeley City Council declared it a nuisance Tuesday.

During public comment at the meeting, community members mobilized to discuss the 40 Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective. Despite testimony in support of the business from clients and friends, a 7-2 vote determined the collective was an illegal dispensary and a nuisance.

Many Berkeley residents praised the business, saying it was an important resource to the area’s low income and minority community and had the right to be called a collective.

“The difference between a collective and dispensary is the love and community,” said 40 Acres member Yvette Jackson at the meeting. “It’s a place to let go and relax.”

But others argued the business was disruptive to the community, citing constant foot traffic and clients waiting around the building, which made it appear to be a dispensary. Councilmember Linda Maio said she received concerned letters from citizens who were too intimidated to publicly come forward against the establishment.

At the meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington proposed tabling the issue for 60 days to consider a compromise. The action failed and the council went to a vote, with Worthington and Councilmember Max Anderson voting in opposition.

“I think we could have found a location where they could have operated legally and kept that incredible spirit and service,” said Worthington. “But in a location where the rules are clear.”

40 Acres is one of two medical marijuana collectives shut down following concerns that the businesses were operating illegally as dispensaries. Perfect Plants Patient’s Group was closed in 2012.

The dilemma of Berkeley’s medical marijuana collectives stems from conflict over city zoning code, which didn’t make a clear distinction between medical cannabis “collectives” and “dispensaries” when 40 Acres was established as a legal collective in 2009. In general, collectives offer a membership-based community over the dispensaries’ for-profit model.

In 2010 when Measure T passed, collectives were prohibited from operating in commercial or manufacturing districts. Chris Smith, 40 Acres’ owner who originally operated his business in a commercial district at 1820 San Pablo Ave., was ordered to terminate the operation in early 2012.

A year later, Smith filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that it discriminated against the collective and that his property was subjected to an illegal search.

“The only two clubs in Berkeley that have faced shutting down are owned by minorities, despite the fact many clubs and collectives have operated in a quasi-legal status,” Worthington said.

According to Worthington, the city acknowledged that an illegal search did take place but none of the information gathered during the incident was used in the case. City spokesperson Matthai Chakko said the city legitimately obtained an inspection warrant and executed it properly.

Arielle Swedback covers city news. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @aswedback.
LAST UPDATED

JANUARY 21, 2015


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