The city council in Berkeley, California voted on Tuesday to make several changes to the municipal code that will allow for cannabis consumption lounges and marijuana delivery services to operate in the city. The unanimous came late Tuesday night after a meeting punctuated by a vigorous debate on the issues, according to media reports.
Under the changes, licensed cannabis retailers will be able to allow on-site consumption of marijuana products if the business installs a required ventilation system. Before Tuesday’s meeting, city staff had recommended that consumption lounges be approved by the council. Under previous regulations, the use of cannabis was prohibited in public places, most businesses, and by many landlords, leaving many consumers and medical marijuana patients without a place to legally imbibe.
“Providing a place to consume cannabis legally is important for patients who have no other options,” wrote city staff in a report to the council.
Cannabis Delivery Services Also Approved
The measure approved on Tuesday also allows for up to seven cannabis delivery services to operate in the city and increases the areas of the city where commercial marijuana cultivation is permitted. The changes were supported by the Berkeley Patients Group, a cannabis dispensary that has been serving the local community since 1999. Under the new regulations, the dispensary will have more space for its operations and be able to open a smoking lounge for its patrons. After the vote, the Berkeley Patients Group issued a statement applauding the changes approved by the city council.
“We want to thank our city council members for their diligence and thoughtfulness,” the statement reads. “We’d also like to thank the staff, who spent three years researching and developing their prudent recommendations for a post-legalization world,” adding that Berkeley officials “have shaped the most progressive cannabis regulations in the country.”
Health Officials and Some Residents Opposed to Changes
Allowing cannabis consumption lounges in the city was opposed by the Berkeley Community Health Commission, which expressed concerns about secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke and vapor and the potential risk of drivers getting behind the wheel while high. The commission also said that allowing consumption lounges would be inconsistent with city initiatives to provide smoke-free environments and curb social acceptance of smoking.
The relocation of Berkeley Patients Group was opposed by some city residents, including Carol Denney. The new site for the dispensary is located at one of the city’s busiest intersections and near a library and preschool.
“If they think that’s the best location, I wonder what a bad location is,” said Denney.” “Plus we got no notice for the neighbors of this business about this lounge.”