Although this is not “new” news for some reason it flew under our radar. Regardless, the implications are huge: The city of Berkeley will now require medical marijuana dispensaries to give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year free to low-income patients.
While not necessarily the first initiative of its kind (SF notoriously provided “compassion sacks” to homeless residents of the city following the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the late 90’s and early 00’s) it certainly is the most comprehensive, having taken hold after the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s medical pot rules, which would also allow for a fourth dispensary in Berkeley.
“Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore.
“We think this is the responsible thing to do for those less fortunate in our community,” he later continued.
One Berkeley marijuana dispensary, the Berkeley Patients Group, already gives out free cannabis to the poor and has for 15 years.
“We’ve found out over the years that one of the cruel realities is that when you do get sick and you have a serious illness is that it’s often hard to keep a job, can be hard to keep your income up, so those people really need the help the most,” said Sean Luse of Berkeley Patients Group.
Under the proposal, at least two percent of all medical weed dispensed at a club would have to be provided at no cost to very low-income members — and it must be the same quality that’s dispensed to regular paying customers; although at the time of this writing there are no clear guidelines to determine how low-income a person is. The best guess on how an individual can verify income status (having worked in the social services industry all my adult life) is through some sort of proof of income eligibility, whether that be a CALFresh card, GA award letter or Medi-Cal card or any variation of the aforementioned.
The measure also revisits definitions for cannabis collectives and dispensaries, patients and caregivers, on top of setting new rules for hours of operation and the methods for testing cannabis and edibles. This new standard is not just true for Berkeley but all cannabis collectives operating within the state of California.
My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities.