Fewer than three weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to restrict Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries, Berkeley City Council unanimously green-lighted recommendations this week that blaze the path for a fourth marijuana dispensary in the city.
The council’s proposed regulations stem mostly from the Medical Cannabis Commission’s suggestions, which included appropriate security measures for dispensaries, regulation of edibles, permitted hours of operation and language distinguishing a dispensary from a collective.
Three and a half years ago, the passage of Measure T allowed for the establishment of a fourth dispensary, but momentum on the matter has been delayed on a number of occasions. Now, the final vote on the proposed ordinance will be held July 1.
The commission recommended hours of operation for dispensaries to be from 8 a.m. through 10 p.m., but the council opted to require dispensaries close by 9 p.m. The commission also suggested the establishment of six dispensaries, but council members decided to limit the number of dispensaries to four and to review the limit in a year’s time.
“Geographically, it doesn’t make sense. Big chunks of Berkeley do not have access or easy access,” said Rick Pfrommer, chair of the commission, referring to the current placement of dispensaries throughout the city.
The majority of public commenters also spoke about the need for medical marijuana and urged the council to make a decision quickly.
City officials, council members and commissioners also hashed out the difference between collectives and dispensaries. A collective was defined as a source of medical cannabis produced in a residence. The council established that a collective may have four locations that may include a site for growing and distributing, among other uses. A dispensary, on the other hand, was defined as a business, requiring a license and only operating in commercially owned areas.
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin voiced the concern that illegal dispensaries have been cropping up in his district, but thanked the commission for its work on distinguishing collectives from dispensaries because collectives can be better regulated under the new language.
“There’s a reason why we see these illegal dispensaries popping up,” Arreguin said. “There is a real critical demand on the part of patients in Berkeley.”
Contact Elizabeth Kurata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ElizabethKurata.
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