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Pot club closes following robbery

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday June 12, 2002

Club aims to protect public, patients and marijuana as medicine 


\The University Avenue medicinal marijuana club that was robbed last week for the third time in a year closed its doors permanently Tuesday. 

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t putting patients at risk, and we wanted to keep neighbors safe,” said Berkeley Medical Herbs office manager Dorrit Geshuri. 

The club, which has attracted a spate of negative publicity with the robberies, was closed also because the club wanted to protect the medicinal marijuana movement and the other four pot clubs in town, Geshuri said. 

The financial losses incurred in the robberies did not play a role in the closure, she said. 

“I think it’s a responsible decision,” said City Councilmember Linda Maio, who had vowed to shut down Medical Herbs after last week’s robbery. 

The heist took place Wednesday afternoon when two Latino men said they knew owner Ken Estes then forced their way into the club, brandishing a gun and a knife.  

The robbers told everyone to lie on the ground and made off with about $1,500 in cash and over a pound of marijuana, valued at $3,500. 

After a December robbery, neighbors and city officials raised concerns about security on site and the safety of residents. The club responded by shortening its hours of operation, hiring a licensed security guard and installing cameras, among other measures. 

The club was considering additional measures, Geshuri said, when the June 5 robbery occurred. 

The Medical Herbs ownership announced the closure in a weekly meeting of the Alliance of Berkeley Patients, an umbrella group for the dispensaries in town. 

Don Duncan, who operates Berkeley Patients Group, another marijuana club, welcomed the decision. 

“I think in this instance, it’s for the best,” he said, noting that he would normally be upset with the move because there is “safety in numbers” for a movement under constant political pressure. 

Duncan said he is pleased that the Medical Herbs management is committed to putting patients in touch with other clubs. 

“The patients will be taken care of,” he said. “That’s great.” 

“I am so grateful that the management of that group has decided to shut its doors,” said City Councilmember Dona Spring. “Public safety comes first.”  

Spring argued that the decision will serve the medicinal marijuana movement in Berkeley. By pre-empting new robberies, she said, the closure will help prevent neighbors of other clubs from becoming overly concerned. 

“My reaction is one of relief,” added Mayor Shirley Dean. “I think it was a good decision on their part, a responsible decision.” 

Several neighbors made efforts to close down the club in the wake of the robberies. But Geshuri said most have been supportive. 

Stan Eby, who manages a number of apartments on University Avenue, said a drug store and meat market that used to be in the neighborhood were robbed far more often than the pot club. He said he was sad to see Medical Herbs go. 

“It’s a shame that it’s closing up,” he said. “We need clubs like that.” 

Geshuri said the management of Medical Herbs may re-open as a “juice bar and herbal medicine establishment.” The new store would not sell marijuana, she said.  


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