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Tiffany Chiao, the Native Californian: Berkeley woman has high hopes for Albany cannabis dispensary

Berkeley woman has high hopes for Albany cannabis dispensary
by Tiffany Chiao,  August 7, 2011

A Berkeley woman who co-founded local medical cannabis collective Berkeley Patients Group is looking to set up shop in Albany with another collective, which would be the city’s first and only medical marijuana dispensary.

The application, submitted by Debby Goldsberry at the beginning of the summer, is currently under review. Following the 2006 passage of a law to allow one medical dispensary in Albany, several applicants have tried to claim the space but failed because they did not fit the zoning laws and drew complaints from the community due to their proximity to neighborhoods and areas with youths.

Despite previous rejections, Goldsberry, who is a co-founder and the executive director of the United Cannabis Collective, said she hopes the application will prove more promising due to its proposed location on 544 Cleveland Ave. — next to a freeway and away from homes and residential areas.

“We’re hoping we’ve found our winning location so we can start serving patient members of Albany,” Goldsberry said.

According to Jeff Bond, Albany’s planning and zoning manager, the city Planning & Zoning Commission is currently reviewing the application details, and the Albany Police Department is running a background check on the people who would run the dispensary. Once the processing is completed, the commission must vote on the proposal, which Bond said he expects to happen within the next month or two.

Goldsberry said that during a public hearing for the dispensary — which has yet to be scheduled — she and other members of the UCC hope to introduce their company to Albany citizens and receive feedback from the community, though she said reception to their project has been favorable so far.

“We’ve been … paying attention to what the community says,” Goldsberry said. “The people are really supportive of a dispensary in the location that we’ve chosen.”

Should the proposal be approved, Goldsberry said she plans for the dispensary to share the values of the city — private and close-knit.

“Albany is a very small city, a small town, and we really want to create a dispensary that will follow the model of the city,” Goldsberry said.

Goldsberry said further work developing the Albany dispensary, including finding additional members to come onto the UCC advisory board, would need to be taken before thinking seriously about future expansion.

“The UCC hopes to create dispensaries in other communities, but Albany is our first project, which we feel very strongly about,” Goldsberry said. “It’s a new chance to create a new kind of dispensary that focuses on the warmth and compassion that people need to feel better.”

Nevertheless, she said, one possibility may lie in Berkeley, which is currently developing guidelines for licensing a fourth dispensary allowed for under a measure approved by voters last November.

According to Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission chair Dan Rush, who said the people of Albany “will be lucky to have UCC as their dispensary collective,” the Berkeley commission expects to come up with a draft of recommendations to present to the Berkeley City Council for a safe and effective regulatory process before the end of the year.

“My goal is to develop a sensible recommendation for the City Council that will create safe patient access to safe and controlled medicine and to create an industry in Berkeley that is controlled and regulated,” Rush said.

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