OCTOBER 13, 2015: Pursuant to the Viridis Law Group’s commitment to providing the highest quality professional services, we strive to keep our clients informed on the patchwork of laws presently blanketing California, each with its own variations and nuances. The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, signed into law by Governor Brown on October 9, 2015, seeks to unify medical marijuana regulation in the State under a common framework and licensing scheme. Under these new regulations, dispensaries in existence and compliance prior to January 1, 2016 will be given priority in the licensure process, to be implemented by January 1, 2018. This post provides an overview of Berkeley’s current medical marijuana dispensary law.
As one of the first municipalities to recognize the benefits of medical marijuana, the city of Berkeley served as an early test case for collectives and cooperatives seeking to dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients. Presently, the Berkeley Medical Marijuana Commission (“MCC”) is considering finalists for the fourth, and currently final under existing local law, dispensary to be authorized to operate within Berkeley city limits.
The Berkeley Municipal Code provides that only four dispensaries shall exist in the City of Berkeley subject to very strict situs rules. Specifically, dispensaries can only be located on parcels that are entirely within a commercial district and must be outside a 600-foot radius of a school or legally, existing dispensary.
Competition for the final dispensary slot has been tough, given that applicants estimate that a new dispensary will gross $1.2 million to $4.6 million in the first year of operation. Since the application process closed in March of 2015, of the 12 initial applicants, only six remain after application review and vetting by the MCC. Additionally, on September 23, 2015 the former chair of the MCC, Daniel Rush, was arraigned on 15 counts, including illegal payment to a union employee, honest services fraud, attempted extortion under color of law, conspiracy and money laundering by concealment, in federal court. Rush pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The finalists will now hold public hearings to receive public input from neighbors on concerns and potential impacts from the operation of an additional dispensary. These finalists were whittled from a pool that consisted of dispensary operators who were booted out of San Francisco when the U.S. Attorney threatened to sue, current Berkeley small business owners, and longtime Berkeley residents with experience in the medical cannabis arena.
At the present, there is no indication that the City of Berkeley is considering a fifth dispensary. Under present laws, permitting an additional dispensary, would require the assent of a majority of the City Council followed by approval of Berkeley voters. However, with the signing of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act into law and a possible statewide ballot measure legalizing recreational cannabis for adults in the works, a fifth dispensary in Berkeley may be on the horizon.
The professionals at the Viridis Law Group can advise you on existing medical marijuana regulations, like Berkeley’s, and the impact of newly enacted legislation. Call us today to see how we can help you make sense of it all.