Pubdate: Wed, 07 Oct 2015
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2015 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


Amid the collapse of physical record sales, the Bay Area's album 
mecca, Amoeba Music, is hoping to open a medical cannabis dispensary 
inside its Berkeley flagship store.

Everyone knows the music industry is in the dumps - shattered by the 
collapse of sales of physically recorded music. But what few people 
know is the surging weed industry is helping to prop things up.

Rapper Snoop Dogg is an investor in the leading weed delivery app, 
Eaze, and late last month, he launched the digital weed media empire 
Merry Jane. Willie Nelson, as well as the estates of Jimi Hendrix and 
Bob Marley, are all readying branded pot strains.

Now, the Bay Area's recorded music mecca, Amoeba Music, is making a 
play. A one-year-old medical pot clinic in Amoeba's San Francisco 
store is helping to keep the iconic store from meeting the fate of 
other music retailers.

And this fall, Amoeba Music is seeking a permit for a medical 
marijuana dispensary inside the company's 25 year-old flagship store 
on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Not to be too blunt, but can legal 
weed save music? "Yes," said Amoeba co-owner David Prinz. "Weed can 
help save music - absolutely. Here's a way."

Prinz co-founded Amoeba in 1990, competing against Tower, Rasputin, 
and myriad other record stores at the height of recorded music sales, 
which hit $38 billion in 1997. Amoeba expanded to three locations, 
adding vast, world-class stores to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The 
company has employed countless thousands of California musicians.

But Amoeba's expansion coincided with the rise of iPods and iPhones, 
which tore into CD sales. So Amoeba became the king of re-sales. The 
company created its own online retail platform, and commissioned deep 
biographies of artists. Amoeba sells vinyl, throws events, and 
publishes the last great guide to new music, Music We Like. But it's 
not enough. The Berkeley flagship is listing - badly. Global recorded 
music industry hit a new low of $14 billion in estimated sales in 
2014. "College kids don't buy as much music as they used to," Prinz explained.

"Physical media is toast, I hate to say it," said Brian Zisk, founder 
of the annual SF MusicTech Summit, which returns to the Hotel Kabuki 
on November 10. "One problem is, people no longer have the means to 
play physical music," Zisk continued. "Once that happens, that part is gone."

As for an Amoeba dispensary: "I fucking love it." Zisk said. "Music 
and weed go together like - music and weed."

Louie Armstrong preferred tokers in his bands, Prinz pointed out. 
Notable legalization advocates include: Melissa Etheridge, Sting, 
Jack Black, Alanis, John Mayer, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Tony 
Bennett, Carlos Santana, and John Legend. Bob Marley sold 75 million 
records and was named the eleventh greatest artist of all time by 
Rolling Stone.

"People are already getting stoned and ending up at Amoeba," Zisk 
said. "They're going to spend four times as much."

Getting your cannabis recommendation at the region's premier record 
store is pretty sublime. We highly recommend it. You start out on 
Haight Street - a legendary district with a quirky rule that says 
doctor's offices can only be on the second floor of buildings. There 
is almost no second floor doctor's office space on Haight Street, but 
Amoeba had some, and needed the money. "It also fits in with what we 
do, who we are," Prinz said. "It's counterculture to a very high degree."

The medical cannabis office - Green Evaluations - is affordable, 
fast, professional, and has the best vintage rock posters of any 
clinic in the history of mankind. Prinz said the clinic also draws 
foot traffic into the record store.

When the City of Berkeley opened its application process for a fourth 
permit this year in the city, Prinz saw a chance to help Amoeba's 
flagship and fulfill a lifelong dream. "We need supplemental income," 
Prinz said. "That's the real truth. This helps keep us open and 
enables us to do some amazing shit."

Under Amoeba's dispensary permit proposal, the Telegraph Avenue store 
would undergo a renovation to add a dispensary in what is now the 
jazz room. "That street could really frickin' use this," Prinz said. 
"The whole neighborhood would like the street to be more civilized."

Amoeba is going up against five other groups seeking the city permit. 
After a round of public hearings, the city council will pick the 
winner. Prinz said he hopes Amoeba's track record as a time-tested 
retailer and stalwart community booster will be rewarded.

Plus, the synergies would be world-class: cannabis/music pairings and 
other events. Which begs the question, does Amoeba have any decent hook-ups?

"Amoeba has some really good friends who really grow some beautiful 
strains," is all Prinz would say for now.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom