Friday, April 9, 2010

Berkeley Looks at New Medical Marijuana Regulations

Berkeley might soon start resembling the fictitious city of Agrestic
featured in the hit TV series "Weeds," where a widowed young
mother bakes pot cookies at home to make ends meet.

Except, there would be nothing illegal about it.

Berkeley's Medical Cannabis Commission is considering a proposition
that would allow all three of the city's medical marijuana
dispensaries to expand beyond retail space to grow cannabis and bake
marijuana-laced cookies and brownies in residential and commercial

If this sounds like a belated April Fool's joke, it's not. The
commission is expected to bring the proposal before the Berkeley City
Council on April 27.

A related proposal from the commission would allow medical marijuana
patient groups to grow cannabis or bake marijuana goods inside their
homes or commercial spaces and sell them to medical marijuana clinics.

The idea is not to turn Berkeley into "pot heaven," but
according to the Medical Cannabis Commission, regulate the quality of
the grown and baked cannabis goods being sold at dispensaries throughout
the city.

The city is currently contemplating taxing medical cannabis clinics
based on their square footage to increase revenue, a move some advocates
of medical marijuana view as a bit extreme.

However, most of them said Wednesday that they approved of the new
regulations being proposed.

"We definitely like it," said Brad Senesac, director of
communications for the Berkeley Patients Group, which is getting ready
to move from its tiny space on San Pablo Avenue to the Scharffen Berger
candy factory a few blocks away. "We think it will make things
better—there will be more policies and procedures in place. Right
now you have collectives of patients who grow or make marijuana goods
but it's not regulated by the city's health department."

Most medical cannabis clubs in Berkeley work with specific vendors who
have "quality spaces" to grow and develop marijuana products,
but "we want more regulation," Senesac said. "We want the
products to be certified."

Senesac said the Berkeley Patients Group discussed the proposals with
several other dispensaries as well as city officials.

"With the small space we have right now, we don't have a bakery
or a commercial grow area," he said. "We barely have room for a
dispensary or social services."

The Berkeley Patients Group offers therapy, massages and free food and
drink and sells products such as cannabis flowers, extracts, oils,
chocolates, teas, lemonade and topical ointments.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, a staunch advocate of medical
marijuana, said that new regulations would clear any ambiguity
associated with vendors growing marijuana or selling goods made from it.

Worthington said that although state Proposition 215 allowed people to
grow small quantities of marijuana at home, "it's a weird thing

"The clubs have a permit to dispense it to their patients, but
it's sort of a gray area where the cannabis can be grown before
coming to the dispensary," he said. "We need to figure out a way
to provide legal protection to the people who are providing it to the

Meanwhile, Berkeley's neighboring cities like Richmond and Walnut
Creek are cracking down on cannabis clinics and imposing hefty fines on

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