by Doug Oakley /MediaNews Group [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_22089425/banned-berkeley-medical-marijuana-collective-may-move-vallejo]:
BERKELEY -- The owner of a medical marijuana collective whose operation was declared a nuisance and ordered to close by the City Council on Tuesday night said he will take his business to Vallejo.
Without comment, the council unanimously declared Perfect Plants Patients Group a nuisance after a Nov. 11 hearing in which it said the collective was operating illegally.
Eric Thomas, president of Perfect Plants Patients Group at 2840 Sacramento Ave., said he already runs one collective in Vallejo and will try to open a second one there because the rules governing medical marijuana are easier.
Vallejo, which housed at best count a couple dozen store-front dispensaries by early this year, has no medical marijuana sales permitting process, nor a specific ban on it. Since February, several dispensaries have been shut down -- some repeatedly -- through police raids, even as the city has begun taxing medical marijuana sales. A city effort in recent years to begin regulating and permitting the industry foundered over legal concerns.
A Vallejo police spokesman had no specific response to Thomas' stated plan, saying only that the department plans to "continue to investigate illegal storefront dispensaries that are open in Vallejo, as time permits."
"It looks like it will be a losing battle for us to stay open in Berkeley unless they are willing to rewrite the rules concerning collectives," Thomas said Wednesday.
But a member of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association who lives around the corner and who threatened to sue the group over allegations it brought crime, trash and street drug sales is dubious. He said he won't be convinced Thomas is gone until he sees the space empty.
"The sign is still up, everything is still in the office," Ryan Kerian said. "To me, they are still operating. We want the city to get a legal order telling them to vacate."
A number of issues contributed to the City Council action including the fact that Perfect Plants was a collective operating in a commercial area, where only licensed dispensaries are permitted to sell medical marijuana in Berkeley. The three licenses in Berkeley are already taken. Medical marijuana collectives, generally smaller, are allowed in residential areas in Berkeley.
In addition, the city contended the collective was violating a rule that medical marijuana outlets need to be more than 600 feet from any school. Longfellow Middle School is nearby.
Thomas said in the 15 months he was in business in Berkeley he had 4,000 members and was selling about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of marijuana every two months. A robbery in April cut revenues, he said.
Thomas said he has paid only $2,000 out of $25,000 in fines levied against him by the city over the last year. He said he is disappointed over the City Council action.
"Berkeley had a chance to step up and be leaders in medical marijuana," Thomas said, "but they've fallen behind over politics and money."