Pubdate: Wed, 25 Mar 2015
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2015 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


The Bay Area Medical Cannabis Industry Seems to Be Taking Two Steps 
Back for Every Step Forward Lately. Notes From Four of the Front Lines.

Berkeley could add a fourth licensed brick-and-mortar dispensary by 
the end of the year, now that the March 20 deadline to apply for such 
a business license has passed. The city has three existing permitted 
dispensaries - Berkeley Patients Group, BPCC, and CBCB - a number 
that's been unchanged in a decade, said Charles Pappas, a member of 
the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission.

In 2010, Berkley voters approved adding a fourth dispensary, but the 
city council dragged its feet for three years and then spent a year 
working on a new, more intense application process for adding a new club.

Pappas said seven or eight groups - including his own - applied for 
the permit by last Friday's deadline. The biggest hurdle for 
applicants continues to be finding a location. Pappas said his team 
spent several months looking for a landlord willing to rent to a new 
dispensary. Many landlords fear property forfeiture under federal 
drug laws. Berkeley Patients Group is currently in court facing 
forfeiture charges stemming from the five-year-old crackdown on 
California medical marijuana business by US Attorney Melinda Haag. 
"We had trouble finding landlords for a lot of places," Pappas said. 
"When we did get a hold of them, it was pretty much a 'no' a lot of 
times and a lot of hang-ups."

Now that the applications are in, applicants will go through a 
four-stage selection process that includes a medical marijuana 
aptitude test. Applicants can change their intended dispensary 
location mid-process, if needed.

Asked why he wanted to endure all the hassle of opening a dispensary, 
after his last one, Divinity Tree in San Francisco, was closed by a 
federal forfeiture threat, Pappas replied: "I'm dedicated, you know? 
The Divinity Tree was so special and such an accomplishment. I want 
to have that in Berkeley. It's my home, really. I'm a disabled guy. I 
came here forty years ago and I built my life here. I want to help my 

Up next, Berkeley is working to finish an application process for up 
to six medical cannabis cultivation facilities - which were also 
approved by voters in 2010.


Last week, the City of Richmond formally decreased the number of 
dispensary permits it has available from six to three. Richmond has 
three open, licensed dispensaries and a fourth that has been unable 
to find a location. For years, operators seeking to open dispensaries 
have faced numerous hurdles, including strict city zoning laws, lack 
of leasable space, and NIMBYs.

In addition to reducing the available number of dispensary permits, 
the Richmond City Council voted on March 17 to approve the creation 
of two new permits for businesses that make medical cannabis 
chocolates and other infused foods.


The cash-strapped city of Vallejo -which declared bankruptcy in 2008 
- - is rejecting millions of dollars in voter-approved tax revenue from 
dispensaries and is instead moving to spend hundreds of thousands of 
dollars to close all cannabis outlets.

On Tuesday, March 24, Vallejo city staffers were scheduled to ask the 
city council for a total of $260,000 over two years to pay for 
police, code enforcement, and city attorney time to shut down all 
medical cannabis dispensaries in the city.

The action comes despite the fact that in 2011, Vallejo voters 
approved Measure C - which levied a 10 percent tax on medical 
marijuana sales in the city. The city has about two dozen 
dispensaries operating without local regulations, plus an unstoppable 
fleet of unlicensed delivery services.

Vallejo's longtime mayor, Osby Davis, is on a mission to cleanse the 
city of pot. Elected in 2007, Davis, a fundamentalist Christian, told 
The New York Times in 2009 that he wanted to turn Vallejo into a 
"city of god," and equated the "sin" of marijuana use with murder and 
homosexuality. He was reelected in 2011.

"He's on a crusade, and he's been on one for a very long time," said 
attorney Scott Candell, who represents medical cannabis businesses in 
Solano County. Vallejo dispensaries have also been fighting with each 
other instead of shoring up community support, Candell said.

In January, Davis led a council move to ban all dispensaries from 
Vallejo. When that failed, the council voted to regulate dispensaries 
by first ordering that all clubs be closed. The council and the mayor 
also instructed the city to reject Measure C tax revenue from all 
clubs, totaling roughly $700,000 per year.

Santa Cruz

As we head into the annual spring planting season, Santa Cruz 
County's relatively wide-open medical marijuana industry appears 
headed for a reckoning. Prompted by neighborhood complaints about a 
proliferation of illegal gardens, the Santa Cruz County Board of 
Supervisors was scheduled earlier this week to consider a ban on all 
non-personal cannabis cultivation. An alternative proposed ordinance 
would allow the county's seventeen dispensaries to use a maximum of 
three cultivators who could grow on limited sites totaling less than 
three acres countywide.

Santa Cruz supervisors will also consider raising the 7 percent 
cannabis business tax - which brings in $1 million annually - to 
offset the cost of cops and code enforcement going after an estimated 
139 known illegal grows.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom