Berkeley City Council approves licenses for 2 medical cannabis dispensary applicants

Daniel Kim/Staff

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After almost three hours of presentations and public comment at its full-capacity regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council voted to award permits to Berkeley Compassionate Care Center and the Apothecarium that will allow them to operate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Berkeley Fire Department arrived to help with crowd control at the meeting, where the council discussed five medical marijuana dispensary license applicants:  the Apothecarium, Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, Berkeley Innovative Health, the Cannabis Center and Berkeley Women’s Cannabis Alliance. In May, Berkeley City Council approved an amendment to the city’s cannabis ordinance to increase the legal limit of medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley from four to six.

The various dispensaries outlined their health services and employee treatment in their presentations, and the council members also considered the dispensaries’ locations and their compatibility with their neighborhoods while making the decision.

Co-founder Ryan Hudson explained at the meeting that the Apothecarium’s current San Francisco location has a patient base comprised of 30 percent senior citizens and added that the dispensary’s neighbors have credited it for its safe environment.

“In … more than five years, we’ve never had to call the police,” Hudson said. “Our dispensary is so safe that Girl Scouts regularly come and sell Girl Scout Cookies outside of our store.”

Berkeley Compassionate Care Center’s proposed dispensary would be located inside Amoeba Music, a record store at 2455 Telegraph Ave.

Councilmember Darryl Moore expressed concern about Amoeba Music’s close proximity to another Telegraph Avenue medical marijuana distributor, the Berkeley Patient’s Care Collective, and said he believed awarding Berkeley Compassionate Care Center the license to sell medical marijuana would unfairly introduce competition. He compared allowing Amoeba Music to open up a cannabis dispensary to opening up a Wal-Mart on Telegraph Avenue.

In contrast, Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that Amoeba is a part of Berkeley’s history and that it has served as a model business in the city.

According to Worthington, the council’s concerns for awarding licenses to Berkeley Innovative Health and the Cannabis Center were related to location. Several neighbors of Berkeley Innovative Health at 1229 San Pablo Ave. came to voice their concerns about the dispensary’s potential impact on traffic and crime.

The regular meeting was preceded by a special meeting where the council discussed dealing with an increase in sexual assaults and rape in Berkeley. Worthington said he and Councilmembers Susan Wengraf, Lori Droste and Jesse Arreguin are organizing a town hall to address how to deal with the problem. He said they’re working with the UC Police Department, Berkeley Police Department and Bay Area Women Against Rape and will decide on a date as soon as possible.

“We’ve had five assaults in one week,” Worthington said. “We have to respond to that immediately.”