BCC, Voters and Patients’ Access

Tuesday July 20, 2004

Medical cannabis patients like myself are simply not feeling too secure these days. The medical cannabis voter initiative—the Patients’ Access to Medical Cannabis Act (PAMCA)—seems to have provoked a great deal of critical response judging from articles in the last two issues of the Daily Planet. I’d like to remind the city manager, the BCC, and citizens of Berkeley that PAMCA is what I consider a responsible attempt by informed medical cannabis advocates to ensure legal, sanctioned, and efficient access for patients to their medicine.  

I question the opposition to PAMCA (City Manager Kamlarz’ critical report) as well as the BCC’s earlier (April 27) reasoning in choosing not to consider amending Berkeley’s medical cannabis code. At the April 27 meeting, plant limit concerns consisted of potential commercial production, ensuing robberies and home invasion fears. Neglected were the rights of medical cannabis patients to grow their own sufficient amount of medicine legally under current Berkeley city code. Putting it kindly, members of the BCC and Police Chief Roy Eisner clearly displayed their lack of knowledge about marijuana cultivation. Larger plants, more area, and many lights are required for commercial cultivation. Patients’ homes are certainly not able to provide what is needed to produce pounds and pounds of marijuana, and I doubt there are warehouses available in our city whose owners would allow the commercial growing of medical cannabis. PAMCA affords patients the ability to grow the amount of marijuana according to their personal needs.  

Further arguments against the initiative are regarding a “parade of new pot clubs” that are sure to be opening in Berkeley. I suggest those who are so worried call every commercial space available in Berkeley and mention opening a medical cannabis dispensary. One of the reasons the Cannabis Buyers Cooperative of Berkeley (CBCB) fought so hard to move their location to Sacramento Street was a simple lack of locations willing to accept dispensaries. Last week the Daily Planet correctly reported the “revoking of CBCB’s use permit costing the operation about $10,000.” Further opposition mentioned by Don Duncan (“No one thought it was a good idea...”) wasn’t completely accurate. At the Alliance of Berkeley Patients meetings (ABP—a proposed “Peer Review Committee”) which I attended there was at least reluctant support for CBCB’s move. Truly unfortunate was the contentious interaction at later neighborhood meetings that rendered the move impossible. If the oldest and previously problem-free dispensary in Berkeley is having difficulty finding a new location, how can it follow that PAMCA will mean many more new “pot clubs” in Berkeley?  

The peer review committee is such a good idea and I believe the efforts of dispensary owners in Berkeley should be recognized and sanctioned. Today (Tuesday, July 20) the BCC will have the opportunity to adopt PAMCA and negotiate changes in the initiative. Councilmember Dona Spring, more than any other BCC member, gets it—the fact that medical cannabis is crucial to so many patients’ lives. Her legitimate concerns about zoning could be addressed by BCC action today and following negotiations. As a 30 year Berkeley resident, homeowner, and current medical cannabis patient who has studied the provisions in PAMCA, I feel this measure is necessary to protect patients’ access to medicine. The strong opposition to PAMCA worries me. I hope compassion, good sense, and community will receive due consideration if not this Tuesday then by the voters in November. 


Charles Pappas is a disabled Berkeley poet and medical cannabis advocate.