Medical marijuana collective files lawsuit against city of Berkeley

Ryan Serpa/Staff

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After months of legal dispute over the 40 Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective, which caused it to relocate in April, the collective filed a lawsuit against the city April 20 alleging discrimination.

The lawsuit filed by the collective’s co-founder, Chris Smith, against the city of Berkeley and its Medical Cannabis Commission alleges that the city has allowed the three currently licensed dispensaries in Berkeley to unlawfully monopolize the local sale of medical marijuana.

Smith, who believes the dispensaries are overcharging people, said he opened up his own medical marijuana collective to “find a way to get medicine at a more realistic price.”

The three currently licensed dispensaries in Berkeley, which are not run as nonprofits, unlike 40 Acres, are the Berkeley Patients Group, the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley and the Berkeley Patients Care Collective.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko said the city had no comment on the lawsuit.

40 Acres is one of two medical marijuana collectives that were asked to close due to concerns that they were illegal dispensaries. The other collective, Perfect Plants Patient’s Group, was shut down in 2012.

The Berkeley City Council unanimously greenlighted recommendations last year to allow authorization of a fourth marijuana dispensary in the city, a process that is still ongoing.

“Berkeley’s extreme limit to only four dispensaries has forced the demand into other channels,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “The city should have more permits and bring more patients into the safety of taxation and regulation.”

In January, after the council voted that the collective was an illegal dispensary due to city zoning laws and a public nuisance because it caused constant foot traffic, the city ordered 40 Acres to shut down at its former location at 1820 San Pablo Ave.

40 Acres kept operating there until the receipt of another letter demanding its evacuation within six days, at which point Smith relocated the collective to Ashby Avenue on April 11. After the city ordered the collective’s shut down at its new location, Smith filed the lawsuit.

Although 40 Acres was established as a legal collective in 2009, Measure T set new guidelines for cannabis collectives and dispensaries. Under Measure T, which was passed in 2010, collectives cannot operate in nonresidential areas although dispensaries can. The city first ordered the collective, located on San Pablo Avenue, to shut down in 2012 because it was operating in a commercial district.

Smith filed a lawsuit against the city in 2013 also alleging that the city discriminated against his collective. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2014.

“We started our own collective because we saw people who had lung cancer and AIDS in our community,” Smith said. “We wanted to take it upon ourselves and start our own collective.”

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennikang.