Back in July, the city council of Berkeley, CA floated the idea of mandating that medical marijuana dispensaries should be forced to donate a percentage of their supply to welfare recipients who have qualified to use the drug medicinally.
The ordinance received unanimous approval from city council on its first reading. A representative for Berkeley's mayor Tom Bates explained to TheBlaze that a second reading of the ordinance was required before the mandate would become law.
The second reading, which recently passed — again unanimously — instructs dispensaries to distribute the equivalent of 2% of their inventory to low-income people who hold medical marijuana cards.
In order to qualify as low-income for the "welfare weed," a single person can earn no more than $32,000 a year and families cannot make more than $46,000.
Using weedmaps.com, an online app that shows where medical marijuana is available in the Berkeley area, TheBlaze contacted several different dispensaries and delivery services operating in Berkley to learn about the newly approved ordinance.
The delivery services are not required to participate in the program. However, the city's three licensed dispensaries must now allocate 2% of their product to be given free of charge to those who qualify.
Eric Miller of the Berkeley Patients Cooperative (BPC) told TheBlaze the dispensary has been giving low-income and needy patients free marijuana ever since they opened the doors, thirteen years ago. When asked if the operation was currently distributing at least 2% of their inventory to the needy, Miller said, "We have never kept track of it, but I guess we will now."
One of the conditions of the new ordinance causes some concerns for the dispensary operator. Miller told TheBlaze that the 2% requirement applies only to residents of Berkeley. This means that BPC will need to track the distribution of the free medical marijuana, adding that he expects new paperwork and reports to the city will be required of all three of the local dispensaries.
Speaking with a representative from the House of Compassion dispensary, TheBlaze was told that the owners already had a program in place that allocated a pound of marijuana for giveaway each week. The pound is broken up into 3.5-gram parcels and distributed on Mondays to anyone who can prove that they are on welfare (using an EBT card or other form of proof) and have been certified to use medical marijuana. Our source at House of Compassion claimed that the weekly distribution easily exceeds the new 2% requirement.
The third Berkeley licensee did not return our calls.
Is this government-ordered distribution of drugs to welfare recipients a good idea?
In early July, the NY Times' Josh Barro reported on the first reading of the ordinance and likened the distribution of free medical marijuana to federal programs like Medicaid and some of the subsidies found in the Affordable Care Act.
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