Four dispensaries have begun selling marijuana for recreational use in Berkeley. This recent development is due to the passage of Prop 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in California in 2016. Hi-Fidelity, Berkeley’s newest dispensary, opened a year ago in March of 2018. Berkeley Patients Group, which has been selling medical marijuana since 1999, began selling marijuana for recreational use in January of last year. Berkeley Patients Care Collective and Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley also sell recreational marijuana, as well as medical. The City of Berkeley only allows for the operation of six dispensaries.
Hi-Fidelity chose to open their business on Telegraph Avenue, next to Amoeba Music, because they “wanted to combine the healing powers of music with the healing powers of cannabis,” explained Chris Garcia, the curator and head buyer at Hi-Fidelity.
Garcia explained that with the legalization of marijuana came a destigmatization of the drug. The largest demographic that seeks alternative relief through marijuana and CBD products are those over age 55. Now that it’s legal, older generations have begun to detach from the societal stigma that marijuana once carried.
Although recreational marijuana is legal in California, dispensaries are still considered criminal organizations on the federal level. Most banks won’t let dispensaries open accounts, because banks handling money from marijuana sales can be criminally prosecuted. Additionally, dispensaries face challenges filing federal taxes, due to the illegal nature of their business.
In order to sell marijuana for recreational use, a dispensary must obtain a license from both the state and the city. To obtain a license from the city of Berkeley, an application must be filed and the proposed dispensary must hold a community meeting in the neighborhood they intend to operate in. The City of Berkeley’s Cannabis Commission, a nine-member commission including a member of a medical dispensary and a marijuana cultivator who is unaffiliated with a single dispensary, then reviews the proposed dispensaries application at a public meeting. Should the application be approved, the city council votes to allow the dispensary to operate in the city or not.
In order to buy marijuana for recreational use, you must be 21 years old or over. A student who uses marijuana explained that they prefer to buy weed from local youth, instead of finding ways to buy from dispensaries, as some teens do, in an attempt to “support local businesses.” The student said, “We gotta buy from [dealers] so they can help pay for their college.”
Cannabis legalization has always been about compassion and community, Garcia explained. However, he said, minority communities that are overwhelmingly targeted by police “are still not given the opportunities of equity that were promised by supporters of Prop 64,” Garcia said.