Free Weed for Poor Pot Patients in Berkeley? It May Soon Be the Law

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Low-income residents of Berkeley, California, may soon have a chance to score some free weed from medical marijuana dispensaries, thanks to a pending change to the famously liberal city's pot laws.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Berkeley's City Council approved a first reading of amendments to the city's medical marijuana ordinance. Among the proposed changes: to require at least 2 percent of medical marijuana dispensaries' "green" medicine to be given away at no cost to low-income members. "The pot has to be of good quality too," the East Bay Express reports.

But before you pack up your pipe and hitchhike to Berkeley, let's go over the details of this free medical weed ordinance.

Free Green for Those With No Dough

Berkeley Councilman Darryl Moore told San Francisco's KPIX-TV that the city wants to ensure that "homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine."

As you may recall, California was the first state to allow medical marijuana in 1996, and since then the state has continued to explore policies surrounding medicinal cannabis.

Among other proposed changes to make Berkeley's ordinances more like California state law, councilmembers voted to require that 2 percent of each dispensaries' annual medical cannabis must be provided for free to "very low-income" members. For purposes of the Berkeley ordinance, "very low income" will likely parallel current city tax breaks, which are capped at a household income of $37,400.

So even if it's tough to live in your two-bedroom Berkeley apartment on $40,000 a year, you probably won't be eligible for any free medical pot. KPIX reports that some local dispensaries already give out free medicinal weed to the poor, like the Berkeley Patients Group.

Other Proposed Pot-Law Tweaks

In addition to requiring cannabis dispensaries to give a percentage of their medicine to low-income patients, Berkeley councilmembers also took the first step toward changing some of the definitions surrounding medical marijuana. For example:

  • Both "patient" and "caregiver" would be aligned with definitions in California state law;
  • "Smoking" would be clarified to exempt e-cigarettes and similar forms of marijuana vaporizers from the prohibition on smoking within 50 feet of a dispensary; and
  • The revised law would distinguish between "cooperatives," "collectives," and "dispensaries."

The changes won't become official until the council approves the measure next week, but things are looking up for low-income medical pot patients in Berkeley.

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