Finalists present proposals for Berkeley’s 4th cannabis dispensary

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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Six applicants vied for the distinction of being the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary during a special meeting Jan. 28 at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

Each applicant spent 10 minutes pitching ideas for the city’s fourth dispensary at the Medical Cannabis Commission’s meeting, which was followed by an hour of inquiries from the commission and a public comment session.

Charles Pappas, the commission chair, expressed his hope that the fourth dispensary will be locally owned.

The establishment of a fourth dispensary is permitted by Measure T, which was adopted in 2010 and changed the city’s medical cannabis regulations as well as created the commission to draft recommendations for City Council.

In August 2014, the city adopted a dispensary ordinance and selection process for the fourth medical cannabis dispensary.

According to the meeting’s agenda, there are four rounds in the dispensary selection process. The selection process is in the fourth round as of now, said the commission’s senior planner Elizabeth Greene.

One of the applicants, Ryan Hudson of the proposed Apothecarium — which would be located at 2578 Shattuck Ave. — said in an email that his store is known for its “customer service, high-quality medicine … community giving” and “excellent safety record.”

Another applicant is Ryan Monsanto of the proposed Cannabis Center, which would be located at 1436 University Ave.

According to Monsanto, the Cannabis Center would focus on “safe access and quality medicine, but also the holistic service … attached to it,” such as oxygen and chiropractic treatments.

Another candidate is Sue Taylor, executive director of the proposed iCANN Health Center — which would be located at 3243 Sacramento St. — and a member of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging.

According to Taylor, her proposal is unique because she is an accredited teacher of the state of California and she plans to educate her audience and staff.

The medical cannabis is not going away, what we need is the education component,” Taylor said.

Another candidate is David Prinz, owner of Amoeba Music and applicant for the planned Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be located at 2465 Telegraph Ave.

According to Prinz, the Berkeley Compassionate Care Center would be unique because it would be a “very ecologically aware company” run by people who have “proven (them)selves in Berkeley,” while promoting the “counterculture nature of the streets.”

Berkeley Innovative Health, run by Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and Shareef El-Sissi, was also proposed at the special meeting.

According to El-Sissi, Berkeley Innovative Health would be unique because its owners have much experience — including experience with another dispensary in Hayward — and have long been involved in Alameda County and have dispensary management software.

The customer experience is streamlined from start to finish, El-Sissi said.

The commission will discuss the proposals as part of the selection process in the upcoming Thursday meeting, Greene said.

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, it could take six to eight weeks for the commission’s recommendations to reach the council, and it will take even more time for the council to reach a conclusion.

Despite the provisions set forth in Measure T, there is no guarantee that this fourth dispensary will be the city’s last, according to Worthington. The city ordinance currently fixes the number of allowed dispensaries at four, but the council could adjust that number as it sees fit.

I think there’s an urgent need for more than one (additional) dispensary,” Worthington said. “I think different dispensaries are more sensitive to particular cultural communities.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin.