Pubdate: Sat, 11 Aug 2012
Source: Daily Californian, The (UC Berkeley, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2012 The Daily Californian
Author: Daphne Chen


Following a three month closure of the Berkeley Patients Group -- the 
oldest and largest of Berkeley's three medical cannabis dispensaries 
- -- construction has begun at its new location on San Pablo Avenue 
just a few blocks away from where it used to reside.

Although a date of reopening has not yet been determined, 
construction to renovate the interior and exterior areas of the new 
property at 2366 San Pablo Avenue in the commercial district has already begun.

According to a permit application submitted in July by Sean Luse, 
chief operating officer for the dispensary, BPG applied to remove and 
replace the asphalt parking lot and renovate the interior and 
exterior structures of the building, such as placing new tiles and 
adding doors to make it accessible for disabled people. The estimated 
exterior cost of renovations is $49,000, according to the application.

"BPG has and will continue to be a positive community resource 
serving patients in the City of Berkeley and the surrounding region," 
reads a BPG press release.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice began a statewide effort to 
enforce regulations on the the marijuana industry throughout 
California and sent letters to owners of commercial marijuana stores 
that they were not complying with federal laws and could be subject to closure.

BPG closed May 1 after receiving a letter from the U.S. Attorney's 
Office warning the dispensary that it was in violation of a federal 
law that stipulates that dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 
feet of schools and playgrounds, although California law only 
requires a 600-ft. distance between schools and dispensaries. Since 
its closure, the dispensary has continued to operate through delivery services.

According to the press release, the dispensary's new location will be 
more than 1,000 feet away from all elementary, middle and high schools.

BPG will also have a security guard stationed 24 hours per day for 
seven days a week to monitor the property, according to the release. 
The release states an eight-foot fence complete with an alarm system 
will surround the area and security cameras will be operated by a 
24-hour remote.

Although neighbors have expressed some concerns regarding how the 
establishment may affect their businesses, the press release states 
the dispensary is "committed to working proactively" with the community.

Berkeley Patients Group could not be reached for comment as of press time.

"(BPG) intends to (reopen), and I would encourage them to," said Dan 
Rush, chair of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission and director 
of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division at United Food and 
Commercial Workers International Union.

According to Charles Pappas, a member of the commission, the 
commission will meet in September for further discussion regarding the move.

Last week, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced the 
Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, which would prevent 
the U.S. Department of Justice from using forfeiture laws to seize 
property from medical marijuana dispensaries that are compliant with state laws.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom