Pot Proposal Has Some Feeling Left Out

Berkeley City Council members will consider new rules for medical marijuana Tuesday, but some cannabis activists are disappointed that some groups would get fewer benefits under the proposed regulations.

Under the proposed rules, dispensaries would be allowed to get permits to cultivate their product in commercial spaces of up to 30,000 square feet, but members of medical marijuana groups without storefronts — called “non-dispensing collectives” — would be limited to growing in homes and couldn’t apply to grow pot in commercial locations.

“It’s a restriction of trade,” said Charles Papas, a Berkeley medical marijuana activist. “The collectives could provide more medicine and better quality medicine with more space.”

One of the Berkeley groups that wanted more recognition is the 40 Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective, a non-profit group of 150 mostly African-American users and growers.

40 Acres has had a vocal presence at the many city meetings leading up to the proposal, asking the city for clearer rules for collectives because some of their members have had problems with police.

“We get questioned left and right because somehow there’s this stigma on the African-American community’s use of medical marijuana,” said spokeswoman Toya Groves.

Groves said the city should “regulate and support” collectives like 40 Acres by allowing them to get a business license or a permit to grow in a commercial area.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, one of the authors of the proposed rules, said that isn’t part of his plan, but come November, collective growers could have more opportunities if Californians vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“More than likely there would be additional growing faculties and new outlets that would be available to the recreational smoker,” said Bates.

And if the legalization effort failed, Bates said, his proposal would allow an additional dispensary to form in Berkeley. The city currently caps the number of storefront medical marijuana distributors at three. 40 Acres and other collectives could apply for this new spot.

Bates’ plan calls for the following rules:

• A tax of up to 2.5 percent on cannabis businesses’ gross receipts

• A commercial growing location for each of the city’s three dispensaries

• New requirements for dispensaries with a commercial growing location, including giving away 10 percent of their product to low-income people; providing an energy offset to compensate for electricity use; and making their product as organic as possible

• Restricting collective growing to residential areas of 200 square feet (100 square feet if recreational marijuana is legalized in November) or less; the limit can be lower in smaller units

• Mandating that dispensaries provide financial records to the city

• Considering one additional dispensary if marijuana is not legalized in November

• New guidelines for where dispensaries can be located

The City Council will hear the proposal Tuesday night. If council members agree on the rules, they will direct city staff to draft a ballot initiative, and put the measure before city voters in November.