Berkeley Patients Group Landlord Gets “The Marijuana Letter”


Berkeley Patients Group

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
That crazy cannabis carousel continues to spin as the C. Hag (as in Kali U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who sees a working dispensary and has the irascible need to close it) sends out another letter. Berkeley Patients Group is the victim of being too close to where kids could possibly be.
This time is a double-whammy, the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, which also houses a preschool, and Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, a French bilingual grade school, are within the 1,000 feet no-no zone. 
Berkeley Patients Group took over an old car dealership and with the wrought-iron fence and has a visible security patrolling, when I went there, it felt like an island. A huge building with very little foot traffic, very secure and seemingly alone in a converted strip-mall that many patients have pass it by thinking it was a church or some other municipal building.

But that’s not the way the Federal Prosecutor is selling it. 

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag: “Marijuana dispensaries are full of cash and they’re full of marijuana, and everybody knows that”

​”Marijuana dispensaries are full of cash and they’re full of marijuana, and everybody knows that,” U.S. Attorney Haag said in an interview. “They are at risk of being robbed, and many of them are robbed.”
Except that since the Berkeley Patients Group opened in 1999, there hasn’t been a robbery or any incidents of gunplay reported. 
In fact, most of the data has suggested that in the areas that have dispensaries, crime goes down. Even maybe more importantly, the RAND Corporation (until they sold out) found that when a dispensary closes, reported crime actually goes up. 
They should teach that in law school.
At press time, the Berkeley Patients Group is declining to comment. The word is they are looking for a new residence. Some 70 jobs are at stake, but it shouldn’t be a problem for the well supported collective to find a new space, once the City of Berkley defines the parameters.
There are some legal discussions happening about how Berkeley measures how far away the school actually is. Does it go by “city blocks” or “how the crow flies?”
Earlier this week, nearby Oakland approved four new permits for dispensaries to open.
It is estimated that the four new pot shops will bring in about $1.7 million annually for Oakland. 
Because the BPG is one of the oldest shops out there, and because in 2009, the Berkeley City Council proclaimed a special day to highlight the good work the dispensary has done… I’m assuming that the City of Berkeley is on BGP’s side and so resettling will happen soon.
The dispensary still has the federal noose around them; they were hit with back taxes last year to the tune of $6.3 million. But because thousands and thousands of patients can’t be wrong, I’m sure if the Berkeley Patients Group can find a “Home Sweet Zone”, they’ll be back.

jack rikess flip.jpg
Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.