Policy: Entitlements

Berkeley City Council seeks free pot for the poor

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,California,Entitlements,Marijuana,Welfare,Blake Seitz

City Council members in Berkeley, Calif., were voting Monday on an ordinance that would require medical marijuana dispensaries to fork over a portion of their inventory to low-income and homeless residents.

The requirement is buried in a dense 20-page ordinance to amend the Berkeley Municipal Code. A new chapter in the code includes the section "Medical Cannabis for Low-Income Members," requiring the town's four medical marijuana dispensaries to provide "at least 2 percent (by weight) of the annual amount of Medical Cannabis" they sell to "very low-income Members who are Berkeley residents," at no cost.

"Very low-income" is defined by the city council as less than $32,000 per year for an individual and less than $46,000 for a family of four. In a thoughtful gesture, the mandate specifies that all cannabis forfeited for free must be of the same quality as that given to paying customers.

While bizarre, the measure is far from a free weed free-for-all. In order to qualify for free cannabis, poor residents must be dispensary members. Membership requires a physicians' recommendation -- here's a not-at-all-suspicious and totally far-out link to physicians who will give you one.

Additionally, the plan has precedent. The Berkeley Patients' Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, has been giving free cannabis to the poor for 15 years.

The measure is likely to sail through a final vote, as an initial vote on July 1 was unanimous.

“Basically the city council wants to make sure that low income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” City Councilman Darryl Moore, a key supporter of the free pot plan, told local news station KHON2.

Though Moore and his colleagues are enthusiastic about passing joints to the less fortunate, they are less so about e-cigarettes. The city council will also consider an ordinance to ban e-cigarette use in public spaces, despite the fact that e-cigarettes are a highly successful smoking cessation tool.

In contrast, the Berkeley City Council required law enforcement to "give the lowest priority to the enforcement of marijuana laws" in 1979.

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