POT CLUB DISTRICT GOING UP IN SMOKE
All but One Facility in 'Oaksterdam' Denied City Permits for Distribution
OAKLAND - New city rules have effectively snuffed out "Oaksterdam" -
the uptown area's thriving mecca for thousands of medical marijuana
The triangle between 17th and 19th streets and Broadway and Telegraph
Avenue was, until recently, home to five busy cannabis clubs. Under
new regulations that took effect June 1, it appeared three of the
dispensaries -- along with a fourth one on West Grand -- would
continue to operate.
But now just one Oakster dam dispensary will keep its doors open. Two
others a few blocks outside the district will also get permits.
City Administrator Deborah Edgerly decided to enforce a provision in
the new ordinance that prohibits pot clubs from operating within 1,000
feet of schools, churches, youth-oriented facilities and other
She denied a permit for the area's largest club, Compassionate
Caregivers on Telegraph, which had been told it would receive one. And
she told one owner who operates two clubs that he must close the
established Bulldog Cafe on Broad-
way and only run the newer SR71 on 17th Street between Webster and
California Advocate Relief Exchange at 1900 Telegraph -- next door to
a charter elementary school that plans to relocate -- will hold the
sole Oaksterdam permit. CARE is one of the oldest clubs in the
district and operates on a holistic model, offering massage and free
meals to needy clients, as well as marijuana.
"CARE was the first one we gave a permit to, and I was told they were
the best one and that they were the facility everyone else wanted to
be like," Edgerly said. "So none of the others could be within 1,000
feet of them. I was told the school is mov ing, so that is not an issue."
In addition to SR71, the other permitted club is Compassionate Healing
Center on West Grand -- better known to clients as "Parking in Rear,"
because of its only signage.
The fourth permit allowed by the City Council is up for grabs, and
confusion and rumors abound as to how it will be granted. One club
operator said he received a letter stating if he finds an acceptable
location by July 15, his club will be included in a lottery for the
But Edgerly said that is not true, and she will consider applications
using the same criteria used all along.
"I have most of the information I need on
the clubs, so we would look
at whether the new building is up to code and meets ADA requirements,"
Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers
Cooperative, said he agrees with the city's attempts at regulation but
not with how they have been carried out. He is lobbying to raise the
"They are dispersing what I consider a rightful service that was
bringing good things to the city," he said of the Oaksterdam cannabis
clubs. "I consider this to be haphazard enforcement. But I think the
city will work out the bugs."
Jones, whose co-op no longer dispenses marijuana but issues
identification cards to patients with prescriptions and works closely
with the city on cannabis issues, said he thinks the city will work
out the glitches. He plans to stay in the neighborhood, which will
soon undergo dramatic change.
"All this is to be expected given the redevelopment money coming into
my neighborhood," Jones said, referring to the massive Forest City
housing development as well as plans to renovate the Fox Theater and
move Mayor Jerry Brown's charter arts high school there.
Sparky Rose, operator of Compassionate Caregivers on Telegraph -- also
known as "Third Floor" because of its location -- said he is trying to
follow the city's process and apply for the fourth permit. He said he
was surprised to find out the club 7,000 patients and has 150
employees, had been denied. It has been tough to find a new location
that is not within 1,000 feet of youth-oriented activities, churches
or other dispensaries, Rose said.
"We are working as hard as we can to get this fourth permit," Rose
said. "We will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and we will not reopen."
Two other clubs denied permits -- the Lemon Drop Coffeeshop on
Telegraph and The Green Door on Webster -- have already stopped
dispensing. A couple of dispensaries that never applied for permits
may still be open.
The one dispensary that defied the city's order to shut down finally
closed its doors Friday, but may have opened sporadically since then.
Ken Estes, owner of Dragonfly Holistic Solutions -- formerly called
the 420 Cafe -- said he's convinced he will get the fourth permit.
"I think this time they are gong to factor into the equation what the
patients want," he said. "I will close for a little while until they
resolve this, but if they don't work it out in a couple of days I'll
Estes posted a sign on the door of his Telegraph Avenue shop urging
customers to contact city officials to complain.
Jane Weirick, owner of one of two cannabis dispensaries sanctioned by
the city of Hayward, said she's seen an influx of new clients to her
Hayward Patients' Resource Center since Oakland's new ordinance took
"I've seen three or four dozen new people that I've never seen
before," Weirick said. "With the (Oakland) clubs closing, it's going
to get worse."