Almost 50 years after former president and California native Richard Nixon initiated the War on Drugs, his home state celebrated the opening of its recreational marijuana market. The move signaled a shift in both America's perception of cannabis as well as in the broader culture wars that have plagued the country for decades. No community has personified those issues in the country more so than Berkeley, California.
Commemorating the occasion, Berkeley Patients Group, which touts itself as the oldest continuously operating dispensary in the nation opened its doors to the adult-use recreational market on New Year's day with much fanfare and jubilee. The dispensary was California’s fifth, and the Bay area’s first, to apply for and be granted a temporary retail permit from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Berkeley has been at the forefront of the progressive movement since at least the 1960’s, if not earlier. A statement released by the Berkeley Patients Group notes that Berkeley was one of the first cities in America to legalize medical marijuana, allowing dispensaries to operate within the city limits. The dispensary played a crucial role in helping to pass the law through activism and community organizing.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was scheduled to join the festivities early Monday morning at a 6:00 AM ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary. In a statement, the mayor recognized the tragedy that was (and still is) the War on Drugs.
“I’ve witnessed the tragic consequences of marijuana prohibition firsthand and am proud to represent a city that has been a leader and model example for regulation and reform in California as well as across the country. I support legalization 100 percent,” the mayor remarked. “I am thankful to have such a strong local partner and passionate team of activists at Berkeley Patients Group, a Berkeley institution. Not only does it epitomize how a responsible cannabis dispensary should operate, but also shows that legalization and cannabis business can have a positive impact on the communities they serve.”
Berkeley Patients Group knows firsthand the devastation caused by the Nixon’s misguided “tough on crime” stance that became the War on Drugs. In 2016, after a long legal battle, the dispensary won a high profile cannabis-related federal asset forfeiture case against the Department of Justice. The incident saw the city of Berkeley siding with the dispensary with an official challenge to the Department of Justice.
“This historic occasion represents a culmination of dedication, perseverance, and an unwavering commitment to social justice,” said dispensary COO Sean Luse. “We have been fighting long and hard to get to where we are today, and the significance of this moment cannot be overstated. We are honored to have the opportunity to further legitimize the cannabis industry while continuing to provide a first-class experience for our patients and introducing a broader base of adult consumers to the enjoyable qualities of cannabis.”