3 of 6 medical cannabis dispensaries chosen for recommendation to City Council

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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The Medical Cannabis Commission voted Thursday afternoon to recommend three medical cannabis dispensary proposals out of six to Berkeley City Council for the last location permitted in the city.

Six applicants, each proposing a dispensary in a different location, fielded questions from the commission at the meeting Thursday after a period of public comment. The commission passed a motion 5-1 to select up to three applicants to recommend to City Council, and ultimately chose iCANN Health Center, Berkeley Innovative Health and Berkeley Compassionate Care Center as the top contenders.

The proposed iCANN Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. seeks to provide education and products for senior citizens, said executive director of iCANN Sue Taylor.

“I know that the population of senior citizens is going to grow like crazy … and they’re looking for other solutions besides prescription drugs,” said Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access. “We need these storefront access points to get their medicine they need.”

Berkeley is currently home to three medical cannabis dispensaries. Measure T, adopted in 2010, permits the establishment of a fourth. The measure also changed the city’s medical cannabis regulations and created a commission to draft recommendations for City Council.

“Berkeley is a city on a hill for medical cannabis, and … I think it’s important if you have a place here where it can exist, it should,” Duncan said.

More than 50 people attended the public meeting at City Hall where several commission members expressed a desire to recommend more than one dispensary to City Council. At the last meeting, held Jan. 28, each applicant spent 10 minutes pitching their dispensary and location to the commission.

“I think we all feel frustration that … we have to choose one over the other,” said commission member Stewart Jones.

The proposal for Berkeley Innovative Health was inspired by the success of the Garden of Eden, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Alameda County. If selected, Shareef El-Sissi, chief financial officer of the Garden of Eden, would sell cannabis in alternative forms such as edibles and extracts at the proposed San Pablo Avenue location.

Co-owners of Amoeba Music David Prinz and Marc Weinstein’s proposal for Berkeley Compassionate Care Center would be located on the same block as Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue. The decision to place the dispensary in a high-profile location is an attempt to mainstream the cannabis dispensary business, according to Weinstein.

While iCANN received votes from all six members of the commission, Berkeley Innovative Health and Berkeley Compassionate Care Center followed closely behind.

The three other applicants that did not make the recommended list included the Apothecarium, the Cannabis Center and Berkeley Women’s Cannabis Alliance.

Medical Cannabis Commission secretary Elizabeth Greene said at the meeting that City Council will make the final decision on the new dispensary no sooner than the end of March.


Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sujinjshin.