Berkeley OKs Third Cannabis Dispensary on Short Stretch of Telegraph, Despite Opposition

Retail clerks sell cannabis to customers at The Apothecarium in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood. The business - recently purchased by a Canadian cannabis company - just got approval to open a new location in Berkeley. (Tiffany Camhi/KQED)

Berkeley officials have given the green light to cannabis retailer The Apothecarium to set up shop on Telegraph Avenue.

At a packed City Council meeting Tuesday evening, dozens of citizens weighed in over several hours on whether the city should grant its approval for the company to locate its fifth outlet near the UC Berkeley campus.

Councilmembers overwhelmingly approved the slated location along a stretch of Telegraph that already has two other cannabis dispensaries.

The operators of one those those retailers expressed fierce opposition to The Apothecarium moving two blocks away.

"We got our permit recently and we spent $3 million to open what we think is a beautiful dispensary on Telegraph, never imagining we would have to fight an existential fight just 10 months later against a giant multinational corporation like these guys," said Marc Weinstein, co-owner of Hi-Fidelity, which opened last year next to Amoeba Records.


Weinstein also co-founded and remains part owner of Amoeba.

Last month, The Apothecarium accepted an offer of $118 million in cash and stock from TerrAscend, a Canadian cannabis company based in Toronto.

The deal is pending, subject to regulatory approval in the U.S. and Canada.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ sent a letter to Mayor Jesse Arreguin and councilmembers ahead of the meeting, expressing disapproval of the proposal, which places a third dispensary near campus.

"Of particular concern is the impact of legalization on youth below age 25, because research suggests that use among youth carries special risks to the developing brain that are not present for older adults," Chancellor Christ wrote.

The City Council had already granted permission to The Apothecarium to open at a different Berkeley location in 2016, but CEO Ryan Hudson said the deal with the landlord fell through.

"This is four years in the making and hopefully by the end of this year, we will have an Apothecarium in the city of Berkeley, which is what we've been trying to do for a long long time," Hudson told KQED.

The Apothecarium operates three popular dispensaries in San Francisco and another in Las Vegas.