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Berkeley Set to Require Free Medical Pot for Poor

By Chris Roberts and Cheryl Hurd
|  Friday, Jul 4, 2014  |  Updated 12:55 PM EDT
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The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday approved a plan that includes dispensaries providing free marijuana to low-income members. Cheryl Hurd reports.

The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday approved a plan that includes dispensaries providing free marijuana to low-income members. Cheryl Hurd reports.

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Medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley will likely soon be required to provide free pot to low-income members and homeless people, according to an ordinance approved by the city council on Tuesday.

The city is also looking to approve a fourth dispensary, raising the current limit of three locations.

The proposed ordinance, first reported by the East Bay Express, requires that Berkeley dispensaries give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year low-income people. And the pot can't be poor quality either. The proposed city ordinance reads (PDF) that the "medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average" as marijuana "dispensed to other members."

“It’s sort of a cruel thing that when you are really ill and you do have a serious illness... it can be hard to work, it can be hard to maintain a job and when that happens, your finances suffer and then you can’t buy the medicine you need,” said Sean Luce with the Berkeley Patients Group.

In order to be eligible, a person must qualify for exemption from local taxes and fees, an income level that's set every year by the city council. That equates to $32,000 a year for one person and $46,000 a year for a family of four.

The ordinance is awaiting final approval, but could become law in August.

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