On Oct. 31, Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) will celebrate 19 years of service to the Berkeley community, making it the nation’s longest operating dispensary. In the cannabis industry, that is no small feat.
Since the day it opened its doors in Berkeley on Oct. 31, 1999, BPG has carried out its mission of providing safe and affordable access to quality medicinal cannabis and life-enhancing services to Bay Area patients suffering from serious illnesses.
Over nearly two decades, BPG has faced its fair share of ups and downs, from federal intervention, multiple asset forfeitures to seized bank accounts. So how is it that this organization still stands today when so many others have fallen?
“I attribute BPG’s success to the strong ties to like-minded organizations fostered within our local community,” said Etienne Fontan, vice president and co-owner of Berkeley Patients Group. “The community engagement and support has been fundamental to the dispensary’s longevity in an industry that is notoriously saddled with challenges not faced by other businesses.”
In addition to providing free medicine to patients in need through its Helping Hands Program, BPG has a robust corporate giving program that focuses on the support and development of the local community.
Priority is given to efforts that work to empower, educate and provide direct services to the East Bay. Partners include the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Berkeley Food & Housing Project and others.
During traditional holidays, BPG offers a variety of sales and activities for its patient-members to enjoy, and uses the increase in traffic to drive awareness and support of causes that affect Berkeley and beyond.
This year, on April 20, a popular holiday celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts worldwide, protests across the country were scheduled in response to the rise in gun violence in schools. Recognizing a need for action, BPG donated a portion of profits from sales to support Berkeley Youth Alternatives and hosted a voter registration booth, encouraging attendees to “Be Brave. Speak Out. Get Involved. Go Vote.”
For BPG’s 19th birthday on Oct. 31 community leaders, including Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Councilwoman Cheryl Davila and Berkeley Chamber CEO Kiersten MacDonald, will be present to show support. And 5% of sales will be donated to The Pathways Project in an effort to end homelessness in Alameda County.
Over the past eight years, Berkeley has seen an increase of 43% in its homeless population, and currently has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in Alameda County. The Pathways Project has placed 20 people in living spaces in the three months since it opened, and aims to build 8,500 deeply affordable units throughout Alameda County by 2023.
For its anniversary, BPG has partnered with leading cannabis brands that share the same values of compassion and community, including Bloom Farms, Kikoko and Mary’s Medicinals. These brands will offer significant discounts on their products to patients and adults over 21 from Monday, Oct. 29 through Wednesday, Oct. 31 to raise money to fight homelessness.
While BPG has made great progress in advancing the industry and positioning cannabis companies as leaders in corporate social responsibility, it acknowledges there is still much work to be done to create a safe, viable market.
Sabrina Fendrick, BPG’s Director of Government Affairs, is working closely with the state to implement sustainable packaging laws and to allow for compassion programs, which Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed.
“As the longest running dispensary, we feel it is our duty to lead by example and work with officials to develop regulations that place safe access, compassion, and corporate social responsibility at the heart of our industry,” said Fendrick.
All medical cannabis patients and adults over 21 are welcome to join BPG’s anniversary festivities on Oct. 31 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. held at 2366 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. The day’s festivities will feature branded swag giveaways, a birthday cake, served at 4:20 p.m., music and a photo booth. To learn more about BPG’s 19th-anniversary celebration, visit myBPG.com/19 or call (510) 540-6013.