The Oakland Tribune recently reported that Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission is proposing new rules that would allow the three existing marijuana dispensaries to expand non-retail operations and that would allow “groups of patients to grow marijuana or bake marijuana goods collectively at residences or in commercial spaces and to supply the city’s three dispensaries”. The commission hopes to put the proposals before the City Council at its April 27 meeting.

The Tribune’s article points out that the proposed expansion would come at a time when other Bay Area communities are increasing restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries.

A Berkeleyside reader comments:

It strikes me as extremely problematic since theft of marijuana plants and violent, armed takeover type robberies are sometimes associated with pot gardens and indoor growing operations. It would appear, under this proposal, that practically anyone could convert their house garden to a pot plantation for commercial purposes or start an indoor grow lab which can pose significant fire hazard risks.

This type of activity multiplying throughout the neighborhoods is an invitation to violent, armed thugs from other neighboring cities to “raid” private houses they catch wind of as depositories. We recently witnessed right in front of our home a routine traffic stop which then escalated to a car search which uncovered a large jar stuffed with marijuana buds and also a very large caliber hand gun which was also concealed in the vehicle.

What do other Berkeleyside readers think?

Photo of grow room at Oaksterdam by Ryan Van Lenning from Flickr

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. All of the prohibitionists’ arguments boil down to a single point: If my college-age child gets a little off track and starts using marijuana, the prohibitionists want to put them in PRISON. Prison is not good for my kids or for yours, and it’s much worse than the effects of marijuana, so we can pretty well disregard all of the prohibitionist nonsense about keeping it illegal “to protect the children.” I hope my kids steer clear of marijuana, but I REALLY hope that if they do use a little marijuana, they don’t end up in prison and don’t have to pay the prohibitionist “treatment” cronies in order to remain free and productive.

    If you’re a California citizen (or if you want to pass this along to any California citizens), Californians can register to vote at w w w . by completing the online form and mailing it to the address on the form.

  2. Parents, let’s watch out for the “October Surprise” and let’s stop putting our own kids in jail!
    As the party of individual liberty and responsibility, I hope we as Republicans will put an end to this wasteful, police-state approach to marijuana. It’s time to let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.
    Hopefully Californians will be prepared for the “October Surprise” that the prohibitionists will pull out of the hat as November approaches. They will no doubt try some late-breaking scare tactics and continue to ignore the harm caused by putting our young people in prison, the loss of tax revenue, the waste of tax money, the huge cost of enforcement, and all of the other evils of prohibition.
    Parents, let’s watch out for the “October Surprise” and let’s stop putting our own kids in jail!

  3. As the founder of Montana Pain Management Inc a for-profit cannabis company I would like you to go to our website and see how a properly structured cannabis clinic can work in any community and be a positive influence.
    We employee 15 people at livable wage jobs, we have a disabled OIF 3 veteran who is our Vetrans rep who assist’s injured and disabled vets with accessing their medical card and providing assistance with PTSD related issues.
    We also are a Medicade spend-down approved provider working with the office of Public Assistance to provide those most disadvantaged with safe access.
    If a company is willing to be GAAP standard on accounting and transparent with records a cannabis company can provide many suffering people with the ability to have safe access to medical grade marijuana.
    Feel free to contact me at
    Rick Rosio
    Montana Pain Management Inc
    2311 3rd Street
    Missoula, Mt. 59802

  4. In my last comment, I had intended to point out that we don’t know that marijuana made that couple in the car with their baby pull out a gun and start shooting. I think that behavior clearly suggests that some people are prone to resorting to violence but I don’t think that behavior says anything about marijuana or its legalization. It’s an odd, inflammatory story. Don’t we all feel indignation that people with a baby, for gosh sakes, pulled out a gun and started chasing a bad guy with their baby in the back seat?!! What awful behavior. . . but presenting that story here confusingly suggests some kind of connection to marijuana. Marijuana did not make those people carry a loaded weapon or choose to use it. Sadly, that kind of behavior might continue no matter the legal status of marijuana. I venture to guess that such people (people going around the world with loaded weapons willing to indulge their impulses to use them against others) will continue to exist in society irregardless of the legal status of marijuana.

  5. Gosh. .. some of these comments make the marijuana crime scene sound like the old Wild West, when there was no law enforcement and less agreement between people about how to co-exist (i.e. a society without law, the law being an endless series of shared agreements on how people will co-exist on this shared planet, this shared state, this shared city, this shared neighborhood, etc.). . . .

    I am unfamiliar with the details of Proposition 16 but in general, I support ending the legal prohibitions about growing, owning, selling or using marijuana. And, fyi, I do not ever use marijuana, although I smoked a lot of dope when I was in college in the seventies. It does not matter to me personally if marijuana is available. I don’t like being high.

    But I think it is a waste of our shared resources to criminalize the growing, owning, selling or using of marijuana. Society lets people drink alcohol. Let people make their own decisions about marijuana. And, sure, tax pot. We tax cigarettes, why not marijuana?

    I don’t believe that there would be more crime related to marijuana if it becomes more legal to grow it, own it or use it, certainly there will be no more marijuana-related crime than there is now that it is illegal. Legalizing marijuana will change crime. There will still be crime. Maybe more crime but maybe less.

    I am reflecting on the example of crime shared here by Laura Menard from 2007. It seems to me that the referenced crime might not have happened if it was legal to grow, own, sell, or use marijuana because one criminal stole dope from a dealer (aka another criminal) and then the marijuana thief took some pot shots at a family sitting in a car. It turns out the family sitting in the car might have had some criminals within it because those people pulled out a gun and started shooting. So?! Has Ms. Menard cited this anecdotal evidence to prove something? Such anecdotal evidence means nothing because all of the crimes that transpired in the story she presents would be different if marijuana were legal and taxed (regulated) by the State of CA. Eventually, there would be no more illegal marijuana dealers. Eventually, ripping off a business that sells marijuana would be comparable to robbing a liquor store at gunpoint. Crime will still happen. It will be different crime.

    Maybe if marijuana were openly legal, there would be less crime. Nobody knows.

  6. A local tale of pot and guns, this crazy stuff happened in 2007 in beat 12, unofficially referred to as the gun beat (most the players are carrying)

    Crimes? In Berkeley? It’s like a kooky action-film caper, but not funny because it’s real. Around 3 p.m. on July 20, a gunman stole marijuana from dealers at a house on the 1500 block of California Street. Exiting the house, he saw a car out front containing a couple with a baby. The couple had come to buy pot. He shot into their car. Unhurt, hitting the gas, also armed, the couple chased him. As Lieutenant Wesley Hester puts it: “An off-duty officer in his private vehicle, minding his own business, looked up to see someone in a car pull out a gun and shoot at this guy who appeared to be running for his life, pulling up his pants, clearly not just going for a jog.” A hot zigzag pursuit ended with the couple arrested as their baby watched. The white-shirted pot-thief who started it all escaped.

  7. @sz underwood.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the oakland police department themselves have said they rarely have any problems with dispensaries in Oakland and that violent crime involving marijuana has actually gone down, not up.

    You can always find a story of someone getting shot or robbed, that doesn’t make it an epidemic or the norm though.

  8. Until someone can actually prove that there’s a significant increase in violent crimes or robberies due to medical marijuana dispensaries or grow houses I am all for expanding our medical marijuana laws.

    Over the years I’ve heard a lot of concerned citizens paint horror stories of how violence in our streets and crime is going to skyrocket if you allow medical marijuana in the community.

    I have yet to see any statistics to back this up though. The reality is that crime happens from time to time. But unless someone can prove that areas with marijuana grows sites or dispensaries have significantly higher amount of crime as a result of it then I just can’t believe it.

    I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a grow house on the news that got raided and all the neighbors tend to say the same thing “i had no idea, this is a safe neighborhood, they neighbors seemed like friendly people”.

    I think theres a lot less violence around medical marijuana than some people realize.

  9. Since marijuana has both a burgeoning “legal” and illicit trade, it remains a target of criminal activity. This story from neighboring Oakland is the type of scenario we want to avoid in mostly peaceful Berkeley neighborhoods:

    Orinda man shot while guarding medicinal marijuana
    Posted on October 20, 2009 at 10:49 AM

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A 43-year-old Orinda man is hospitalized after police say he was shot while guarding an outdoor medicinal marijuana crop in an Oakland backyard.

    Police say the man was shot four times when he tried to stop four men from taking the plants Sunday morning. He was listed in serious but stable condition with gunshot wounds to his stomach, thigh, shin and arm.

    His name has not been released.

    Oakland police Sgt. Rebecca Campbell says the man was guarding the plants for a friend who had a medical marijuana license to grow the plants.

    Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $5,000 in reward money for information leading to the suspects’ arrest.

  10. The legal landscape of marijuana will shift significantly if Proposition 16, the initiative to legalize and tax pot, passes this year. Marijuana would still be illegal under Federal law, but California state laws will radically change. Small scale pot growing in homes and yards will become legal without the “medical” exemption.

    I wonder if the Berkeley commission’s deliberations might be better postponed until after the election. Having a big glorious shout fest now might just be a waste of time, political capital and personal energy. On the other hand there are many in Berkeley who’d be very entertained.

  11. The medical marijuana situation in Berkeley and California grows more absurd every day. One visit to any of the state’s dispensaries makes it all immediately clear. Young male ne’er-do-wells hangin’ out, gettin’ high. That’s a big generalization, yes, and there are a handful of worthy medical needs in the mix, and men and women of all ages but the fact is that ANYONE can get a “prescription” for pot. In college, I did. Couldn’t have been easier. Fork the cash over to a quack doc advertised in the paper and walk out with a “recommendation” for medical marijuana. I talked my girlfriend’s mom (lives in LA) into it because she has a hard time finding it at her age. Every college stoner friend of mine at Cal had a card at one point or another. Many tried growing for the club to make an easy buck. Not to provide “medicine” for needy cancer patients. For most it never worked out. However, some found it more profitable than other post-grad careers, travelling up and down the state for seasonal trimming jobs and selling to various clubs.

    Just yesterday I overheard two young men in Walnut Creek talking about pot clubs. “Yeah bro, the po-po shut down the Walnut Creek joint” said one. The other bragged about the club he “runs” in Napa County. “Just come up across the bridge and I’ll hook you up.” he said. He couldn’t have been older than 20. As a pot club veteran I could only chuckle. Running your own pot club is the de-facto dream of every lazy high-school senior now.

    California’s medical marijuana establishment is a joke. Marijuana is illegal in California, but everyone smokes it, so we’ve made up this loophole where anyone with half a brain can buy it, smoke it, grow it and sell it semi-legally. If most Californians really understood our state’s vast marijuana economy, we’d just legalize and get it over with… and all the while make the whole experience safer (no thugs), cleaner (i.e. not pesticides/molds) and more legitimate (organized crime).

    Maybe in the past clubs were labors of “compassion” by renegade nurses, but now its pretty clear that clubs are just a way for active pothead opportunists to make a quick buck and passive potheads to get weed easy.

    In the big picture though, the clubs are serving to normalize the idea of having a weed center in your neighborhood, which gets us one step closer to overtaking the hearts and minds of Joe-Six-Pack, and passing a common sense marijuana legalization bill.

  12. historically, this would have been much more dangerous due to the illegal status & subsequent value that such a crop would have. now that users are allowed to grow their own, the risk of such a crime occurring has greatly diminished. the monetary value is still significant, as it would be with any business inventory- but this stuff is just growing everywhere these days- many garages in berkeley have grow rooms…..