Collective Sees Medical Marijuana Monopoly

     BERKELEY, Calif. (CN) – The Berkeley city government allows three medical marijuana dispensaries that illegally operate for profit to monopolize the market, a medical cannabis collective claims in court.
     The city’s “flagrantly unlawful actions” include authorization of three for-profit organizations – Berkeley Patients Group, Berkeley Patients Care Collective and Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley – to “grossly inflate” prices “to line the pockets of those organizations’ owners,” according to the April 20 petition for writ of mandate in Alameda County Court.
     California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 specifies that “collectives, cooperatives or other groups shall not profit from the sale of marijuana,” lead plaintiff Christopher Smith says.
     Smith and four co-plaintiff claims the authorized illegal dispensaries “reap millions” by overcharging medical marijuana patients, and that city officials have “deliberately turned a blind eye” to the dispensaries’ illegal, profit-making status, and have “dodged and ignored requests from the public” to address the issues.
     The dispensaries’ profit margins often exceed 300 percent, Smith claims.
     Moreover, the city has appointed representatives from those dispensaries to the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission, Smith’s attorney Whitney Leigh said in an interview. The Medical Cannabis Commission takes the lead in drafting most of the city’s cannabis-related legislation, rules and ordinances.
     This situation is especially problematic, Leigh said, because the commission is deeply involved in the selection of the city’s fourth authorized dispensary, for which applications are currently open.
     “That process is fatally flawed for two reasons,” Leigh said. “First, the whole idea of a fourth authorized dispensary presumes that there are existing authorized dispensaries. There aren’t. It’s just not true.”
     Leigh said that the three dispensaries at issue have never been subject to any sort of application process or competency test, as applicants for the fourth dispensary position are.
     “They’ve just sort of become de facto approved without any of that scrutiny,” he said.
     The second flaw in the application process, Leigh said, is that, had it applied to the three authorized dispensaries, none could have been authorized because they are for profit.
     “So now you have these illegal dispensaries reviewing the applications of the organizations that are trying to lawfully apply,” he said. “Meanwhile, they have literally exempted themselves from the same scrutiny.”
     City officials declined to comment on pending litigation.
     Leigh’s office is in San Francisco.

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