August 10, 2012

Berkeley Patients Group Hopes to Rise From Ashes, Set Example for CA Medical Marijuana Industry

Berkeley Patients Group, medical marijuana dispensary, California medical marijuana, federal marijuana crackdown

Now here’s an uplifting story: A well-known California dispensary that was forced to shut down due to government pressure is planning to reopen in a new location.

Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) – in existence for more than a decade – is renovating a former A&W restaurant just blocks from its previous building. The dispensary hopes to begin serving patients again in a 1,200-square-foot space later this year.

This isn’t a slam dunk: The owners will first need to secure approval from the Medical Marijuana Commission – meaning they must meet local operational and safety regulations. They also must demonstrate that the MMJ center will comply with California cannabis laws.

But if all goes according to plan, Berkeley Patients Group will be up and running again in the near future – showing that there is life after death amid the federal crackdown.

Berkeley Patients Group was forced to close earlier this year after US Attorney Melinda Haag threatened to seize the property of the dispensary’s landlord, saying that the center was located too close to a school.

Rather than fold under pressure, the dispensary’s owners are fighting back by adapting to the federal government’s moves. The key is to exceed expectations. The new site is located far away from where children congregate, and it will have plenty of security cameras as well as an eight-foot fence. It will also be accessible to those with disabilities and have three or more security personnel on site at any given time to ensure “diversion of medical cannabis” does not occur.

“Ample care was taken in selecting an appropriate relocation site that satisfies the requirements of both the City of Berkeley and the state of California while retaining convenient access for our patient members,” the dispensary said in a statement. “The site is more than 1,000 feet away from all elementary, middle and high schools…and more than 1,000 feet from the other two permitted dispensaries in Berkeley.”

Federal officials have sent letters to the landlords of hundreds of other dispensaries across the country this year. In many cases, the dispensaries have closed up shop and disappeared into the night, unable to wage an effective defense. Dispensaries with deeper resources, however, might be able to follow BPG’s blueprint.

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