Berkeley City Council approves vaping lounges, cannabis delivery

Jake Souza/Staff

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council unanimously passed revisions to five of the city’s existing ordinances related to the cannabis industry and further discussed options for a proposal allowing safe overnight parking of recreational vehicles at designated city lots.

Revisions to the cannabis codes include permitting two new business types — on-site consumption lounges and delivery-only retailers — as well as adjustments regarding required safety warnings, storefront signage and artificial flavoring additives to products. Opponents of the revisions voiced concerns that flavored products and flashy packaging might appeal to children and that on-site consumption lounges may pose secondhand smoke and DUI risks.

“If your concerns are about the quality of the product or youth and access, you have a lot more to be concerned about from a Chad at Gamma Delta, or whoever, than the professionals from Hi-Fidelity (Cannabis Dispensary), who will check your ID not once but twice on your way in,” said City Councilmember Rigel Robinson during the meeting. “The steps they are going to to ensure the safety of the product — it’s really incredible.”

Roger LaChance, chief operating officer of Berkeley Patients Group, or BPG, decried concerns that smoke from consumption lounges may pose health risks to employees or residents living in multi-use buildings occupied by dispensaries.

BPG, which is the nation’s oldest dispensary, has recently received pushback from local residents after proposing an on-site consumption center at its new location on University Avenue near the Berkeley Public Library’s West Branch.

“We understand how to raise our children and feel frankly insulted by the fact that people come in and insist that we are preying on other people’s children just to make a greasily buck,” LaChance said during the meeting. “That is not the case. Most of us that are in this industry have compassion — we are here to promote healing.”

With these revisions, up to seven delivery-only cannabis providers may now operate in Berkeley, with the seventh reserved for an “equity business” that will be operated by members of communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

The city also picked up an ongoing discussion about a proposal to designate certain city-owned parking lots to give Berkeley’s RV-dwelling population a safe place to park at night. Much of this discussion focused on whether street parking citations will be issued while the city continues to explore options for further locations.

“Criminalizing RV dwellers is not okay with me, we should be able to do a moratorium (on citations) until the pilot is over at least,” said City Councilmember Cheryl Davila during the meeting. “We’re talking about people that are already marginalized, living in their vehicles and can’t afford to pay for citations — it’s not okay. … These citations lead to a court case, if they can’t pay them they will be going to jail.”

Jake Souza is the lead city government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.