By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
Medical marijuana is as American as apple pie, and Albany is the perfect place for a more wholesome kind of dispensary, according to a Berkeley mom who hopes to set up shop there.
Debby Goldsberry, a co-founder of the 11-year-old Berkeley Patients Group who left that organization in January, applied in July for Albany's single license to dispense medical marijuana.
She has joined forces with former Berkeley Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades and Berkeley developer Ali Kashani.
The new entity, called the United Cannabis Collective, is hoping to set up shop at 544 Cleveland Ave. in Albany's industrial area, a site nestled between two freeways.
"Medical marijuana is Middle America apple pie and it fits well in a place like Albany," said Goldsberry.
"I'm a single parent and I really think there is a place for it. Albany has a really great vibe. People in Albany are solid family types, and it fits well in a place like that."
Goldsberry said she envisions a dispensary with a low number of daily visits with a maximum membership of 2,600.
Unlike other dispensaries this one will not allow smoking or eating marijuana food products on site, the application said.
Neighborhood opposition killed a plan to open a medical marijuana dispensary on San Pablo Avenue earlier this year in Albany.
The Planning and Zoning commission denied an application from VitalGen because it was within 1,000 feet of a youth-oriented facility, one of the provisions of the city's medical marijuana law. VitalGen is now suing the city over that denial, said Jeff Bond, Albany's planning and zoning manager.
Bond said United Cannabis Collective's proposed site is one of the few places in the city that satisfies Albany's location requirement.
"This is one of those locations that probably will work," Bond said. "There are not all that many vacant commercial spaces in town. There are some landlords that don't want to have anything to do with medical marijuana and some that do but are in the wrong place."
Bond said Albany police are currently doing background checks on Goldsberry and her cohorts and if they pass, there will be "preliminary discussion by the planning and zoning commission" with time for public comment. Then the application will go back to the planning commission for a vote. It does not have to go to the City Council for approval, he said.
Goldsberry said she approached Rhoades and Kashani to help with the dispensary because of their expertise in land use and planning and because they believe in medical marijuana.
She said she knew Rhoades from working with him during his time as a Berkeley city official when she ran Berkeley Patients Group. Goldsberry met Kashani when he was fighting against a Berkeley Patients Group plan to move to a new site on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley where one of his properties would have shared a parking lot with the dispensary.
"We came to agree with him while working with him," Goldsberry said. "And it turns out he's a really great guy."
In addition to Kashani and Rhoades, Goldsberry said she is hoping to recruit four more board members for the new Albany venture.
She said feels her application will be successful despite VitalGen's rejection in Albany.
"I think the voters really want a dispensary in Albany," Goldsberry said. "They passed a law five years ago, then a second one that increased the business tax, so I think it's just a matter of finding a good location.''
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley