In an effort to increase revenue, Amoeba Music is looking to expand its business beyond selling music as it competes for a permit to open Berkeley’s fourth medical marijuana dispensary.
Berkeley is currently host to three legal medical marijuana dispensaries. In 2010, Berkeley voters passed Measure T, which allowed for the creation of a fourth dispensary.
If Amoeba is chosen to receive the permit, it plans to pull merchandise from its current jazz and classical room, consolidating the store into one main space. The jazz and classical room would be converted into a completely separate building, creating two separate storefronts rather than incorporating the dispensary into the main music store.
“There have been, culturally, connections between cannabis and music making … that’s not our point,” said Marc Weinstein, co-founder and co-owner of Amoeba Music.
Weinstein believes that opening a dispensary could bring customer bases of up to 100,000 flocking to Telegraph.
“(It would) help anchor Telegraph, benefit bookstores, record stores, cafes and add a lot of very good traffic to Telegraph,” said Weinstein.
According to Weinstein, the store’s market in Berkeley has been shrinking and, consequently, Amoeba’s flagship store on Telegraph Avenue has not been profitable in recent years.
Weinstein hopes that opening a dispensary will help boost revenue, allowing Amoeba to continue its tradition of supporting local music-related organizations. Amoeba has supported groups such as Berkeley High School’s music program, Youth Radio and the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, among others.
Charles Pappas, chair of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, has doubts about Telegraph Avenue as a location.
“I don’t think it’s a good situation,” said Pappas. “You really don’t want people who come in and buy medicine and then reselling it on the street … you’d really have to watch out for that on Telegraph, there’s a lot of underground dealing going on.”
Pappas is also concerned about the lack of local applicants for the permit — out of six applications, only two, including Amoeba’s, are from Berkeley residents.
“Amoeba and one other person who’s a Berkeley person: they’re tolerable, but all these other groups are dispensaries from other cities trying to open in Berkeley,” Pappas said. “I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all.”
Weinstein also believes that the permit should go to a local applicant.
“We think that it makes a lot of sense for the city, on so many fronts, to consider us over other applicants who are from out of town,” said Weinstein.
According to Kriss Worthington, District 7 Council member, the next step in selecting an applicant is a series of community meetings in which the public can discuss different viewpoints. After this, the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council on which dispensary applicant to approve before City Council makes the final decision.
“It may come down to a very difficult choice,” said Worthington. “I think we should give all six of them permits if they meet our requirements, but the City Council is not ready to do that.”