Is Berkeley Marijuana Dispensary's Maine Investment 'Cannabusiness' as Usual?

Categories: Marijuana
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"Cannabusiness" is a term thrown around plenty these days, what with medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services a ho-hum regularity in California, and the prospect of full-blown legalization looming on the horizon via the ballot box. But "cannabusiness" is also a dirty word for some in the medical marijuana movement; legendary hemp and medical marijuana activist Jack Herer railed against "cannabusiness" in his last public appearance before his death this spring.

What does any of this have to do with lobsters -- and what does Berkeley Patients Group, the East Bay's second-biggest dispensary, have to do with any of the above? 

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In recent months, BPG has invested over $100,000 -- money that came from patients' purchases of medicine, if it didn't come from venture capital -- in the efforts of its offshoot, the Northeast Patients Group, to own the medical marijuana market in Maine.

Maine voters last year approved medical marijuana, and state officials will license a total of eight dispensaries statewide. NPG applied to run six of those dispensaries; it won four licenses.

Representatives from BPG and NPG did not return calls from SF Weekly seeking comment, but NPG director Rebecca DeKeuster told the Associated Press she was "surprised [to win four permits], but overcome with a sense of responsibility.

"We have a good plan and a good program," she said. "We just want to make sure that program is successful."

Maine state officials admitted that some locals bristled at NPG because of its roots in California -- it is a heavily funded affiliate of the Berkeley Patients Group, where DeKeuster worked for many years. But Maine officials maintained that NPG had the best bid. Its bid was successful in no small part because of its business plan, which states NPG plans to operate at a loss. So how can a nonprofit afford six $15,000 application fees, real estate rentals, AND eat a deficit for a while after it opens? Is the answer "cannabusiness"?

BPG admittedly has a lion's share of the market in Berkeley, and it appears that NPG is well on its way to dominating Maine, as well. But this might not be a bad thing.

BPG has a solid reputation for community involvement as well as being a good business citizen. If that success is repeated in Maine -- and if Maine medical marijuana patients can enjoy a sort of Downeast BPG in their backyards -- it will be a good thing for folks involved.

Just as long as they aren't anti-cannabusiness.

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