Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
The owners of Amoeba Music would like to open a cannabis dispensary on the property. Photo: Tom Dalzell
The owners of Amoeba Music would like to open a cannabis dispensary on the property. Photo: Tom Dalzell

When David Prinz goes before a gathering of Telegraph Avenue neighbors Thursday to talk about the cannabis dispensary he would like to open at Amoeba Music, he will emphasize how his experience selling records will help him create a welcoming spot for cannabis patients. Plus, it will help revitalize the street, he will argue.

Salwa Ibrahim, in contrast, part of a group of female cannabis entrepreneurs, will tell attendees at a community meeting Nov. 20 about the boutique dispensary she and her partners want to open at 2067 University Ave. Berkeley already has three dispensaries, and the Blum Boutique would focus on products that may not be available in those spots, such as “ACDC” or “Sour Tsunami” – strains that are high in CBD and lower in THC, she will say.

The month of November in Berkeley might be dubbed “cannabis month,” as the six groups who are finalists in the competition to open a fourth dispensary are all holding public hearings. One meeting of iCann, already took place; the other five meetings will happen over the next 11 days, including one tonight, Nov. 10. The meetings are a required part of the application process.

“We will be trying to convey we are the most reasonable choice,” said Prinz, president of a partnership group that includes Marc Weinstein, another owner of Amoeba. The group has also hired Debby Goldsberry, who was a principle at the Berkeley Patients Group for 11 years. “We have been in Berkeley for 25 years. We have done a good job on the street … and we want to continue to do that.”

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

Amoeba’s application has already drawn national publicity with articles about its application appearing in Billboard and other publications.

But its higher profile does not guarantee anything. The six applicants will be closely vetted by staff in Berkeley’s Planning Department, then ranked by the Medical Cannabis Commission early next year. The City Council will make the final selection, probably by mid-2016.

Ibrahim said she will talk about her group’s experience (it runs a dispensary in Oakland), the community benefits Blum Boutique will offer, how it will work with cannabis trade groups and the Berkeley Police Department, the values of the group, and the timeline it will follow if it receives the fourth permit, and other issues, she said.

The six finalists include:

  • The Cannabis Center, which would operate at 1436 University Ave. Its principles will hold a meeting at that location Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.
  • Berkeley Compassionate Care (Prinz’s group), which hopes to open at 2465 Telegraph Ave. That group will hold an informational meeting at the site Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
  • Berkeley Innovative Health, which hopes to open at 1229 San Pablo Ave. The principles will hold a public meeting Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. at Ashkenaz at 1317 San Pablo Ave.
  • The Apothecarium, which hopes to open at 2578 Shattuck Ave. That group will hold a meeting Monday, Nov. 16, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St.
  • The Blum Boutique (Ibrahim’s group) hopes to open at 2067 University Ave.
    It will hold a meeting Friday, Nov. 20, from 6-9 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave.
  • iCann already held a meeting for its proposed dispensary at 3243 Sacramento St.

Twelve groups originally applied for the permit to be selected to open Berkeley’s fourth dispensary, but a number dropped out along the way. Four were eliminated because their applications were deemed incomplete, according to Elizabeth Greene, the planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission. Two groups combined their applications, leaving six viable candidates.

Charley Pappas, chair of the Medical Cannabis Commission and an unsuccessful applicant for the fourth dispensary, expressed concern that the public meeting process was not sufficiently transparent. There is no list of community hearings on the city’s website, making it difficult for interested parties to find out where and when the meetings will be held, he said.

“As a commissioner, I am puzzled that the public hearing information must be searched for and then solicited,” Pappas wrote in an email to the City Council. “I would like to see more transparency, information and status reports from Planning and the City Manager in the interest of Berkeley patients and community.”

While Berkeley is requiring the applicants to hold public community meetings, they are not “city” meetings and consequently are not publicized on the city’s website, said Matthai Chakko, city spokesman.

“The meetings have been noticed in the same way as a hearing for a Use Permit: notices have been sent to the residents, property owners and neighborhood groups within a 300-foot radius, a notice has been sent to the Main Library, and meeting notices have been posted on and in the vicinity of each proposed dispensary site,” Chakko said in an email.

“If someone is interested in attending a meeting, that person should contact the applicant directly.  The applicant contact information can be found in the applications, which have been posted on a webpage. This page is also accessible via the MCC webpage.

When this reporter went to the Main Library on Kittredge Street, she could not find the notices, and no one at the Information or Reference desks knew where they were located. Greene, the planning department staff member who is overseeing the application process, walked to the library to help figure out the location of the notices. They are on a bulletin board near the east elevator.

Berkeley cannabis selection process proceeds despite mayor’s suggestion to stop process (10.30.15)
11 groups vie to open Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary (05.06.15)
12 apply to operate Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary (03.24.15)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...