City Council to discuss cannabis regulation, Pathways STAIR Navigation Center progress

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Berkeley City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday evening to discuss cannabis regulation as well as review recent progress made by the Pathways STAIR Navigation Center, which provides services for Berkeley’s homeless community.

The council will evaluate the Pathways STAIR Navigation Center’s first six weeks of operation after its opening in June 2018. It is set to review a Berkeley Health, Housing and Community Services, or HHCS, staff report that compiled data “on existing program metrics” and included five interview responses from center clients.

Homeless activist and former Berkeley mayoral candidate Guy “Mike” Lee said in an email that he believes the Pathways project was in part “inspired by” comments he made in 2016 as part of his campaignwhen he stressed the need for a year-round homeless shelter providing a full support system. He also said the center is “absolutely not” a step in the right direction toward solving the issue of homelessness in Berkeley, however, and said he is concerned about the program’s funding.

“There is nothing positive about Pathways except it provides a (vacation) from the streets,” Lee said in an email.

According to the HHCS report, as of Aug. 14, the program served 53 individuals. Of these 53, five have since moved into shared rental units, and two were reunited with family. At the time of the report, surveyed clients showed a 91 percent satisfaction rate with the center.

Another local advocate and Berkeley Patients Group, or BPG, Director of Government Affairs Sabrina Fendrick said she will be present for the meeting’s discussion of cannabis regulation.

Fendrick said she is looking to support the creation of consumption lounges in the city. She also wants to encourage the city to focus on regulating the delivery of cannabis. In order to make cannabis deliveries a “safe and responsible practice,” Fendrick wants to make it illegal for cannabis delivery drivers to take and fulfill orders while on the road for other deliveries.

Last March at a special meeting, the council discussed the possibility of capping the number of cannabis dispensaries in the city at 18 or 32 storefronts and instituting an equity program to grant preference for cannabis licenses to individuals incarcerated for nonviolent, cannabis-related offenses. These two policies also made their way onto Tuesday’s agenda.

Fendrick said she supported the equity program’s creation but that it could be expanded to help more people. She said she would be in favor of a city-sponsored mentorship program that could provide business and management training for more people impacted by the war on drugs.

“(BPG is) already unofficially mentoring individuals looking to enter the cannabis industry,” Fendrick said. “We’re definitely looking to share our experience with the city so they can develop a program around what we know already works.”

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.