Berkeley Patients Group x Pacific Center

June 11th, 2020

Pride is a celebration of love, the freedom to be who you are, and a sense of belonging.

Berkeley Patients Group launched our $1 Million For Good initiative back in October, supporting ten nonprofits working to uplift our local community. Each month, BPG will drive funds and awareness to one of our nonprofit partners. In honor of Pride Month, we are raising funds, support, and supplies for Pacific Center.

A Brief History

During the 1980’s AIDS crisis, pharmaceuticals weren’t available to treat the disease or its symptoms. Cannabis became a popular solution for those suffering, as it provided relief from nausea, appetite loss, chronic pain, and depression. 

Because it was illegal, cannabis was nearly impossible to obtain. Enter heroes like Brownie Mary, who handed out cannabis brownies to terminal AIDS patients in Ward 86, and Dennis Peron fought for the legalization of medicinal cannabis after being arrested for possession and losing his lover to the disease.

LGBTQIA+ people were disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, so the community had a new and urgent need for cannabis access. Activism for LGBTQIA+ rights began to overlap with activism for access to cannabis. 

A part of this activism began to form as clubs and social networks, through which people with cannabis would distribute it to people with AIDS.

Berkeley Patients Group

Berkeley Patients Group was born out of the need to create a safe place where underserved medical cannabis patients could acquire high-quality medicine in a warm and welcoming, community-centric environment.

BPG founder and early pioneer of the medical cannabis industry, Jim McClelland, was one of California’s first medicinal cannabis patients after the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. Jim was battling AIDS and quickly recognized the value of cannabis to relieve his symptoms and improve his overall quality of life. 

However, by 1999, there were only five medical cannabis dispensaries in operation across all of California, and the quality and accessibility of the medicine were inconsistent.

With his founding partners Debby Goldsberry and Don Duncan, BPG opened its doors on October 31, 1999, in Berkeley, California. The BPG founders set out to create a uniquely different model for care, rooted in the needs of patients like Jim McClelland. 

Jim’s battle with AIDS and subsequent death in 2001 from complications of the disease underscored the need to ensure all patients were treated with love and respect and provided the safest, most effective cannabis medicine.

His leadership, bravery, and commitment to the patient community is still the foundation of Berkeley Patients Group.

The medical cannabis movement was forged in the fire of the AIDS crisis. As an industry, we stand united in the shared spirit of service and action for our member-patients. We stand united in our determination to continue the healing progress that has been made through these tumultuous times.

Even today, the very drugs that give people with HIV a future can make their day-to-day life.

About Pacific Center

Founded in 1973, Pacific Center for Human Growth is the oldest LGBTQ+ center in the Bay Area, the third oldest in the nation, and operates the only sliding-scale mental health clinic for LGBTQ+ people and their families in Alameda County.

The Pacific Center fosters and enhances the well-being and self-respect of diverse Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer, youth, seniors, adults, and families through the delivery of LGBTQ-proficient mental health and wellness services, and the training of a healthy and inclusive community of LGBTQ-proficient mental health care professionals.

Utilizing nearly 200 volunteers and 11 staff members. Pacific Center provides direct services for Alameda County and the more significant Bay Area LGBTQ+ communities. We currently serve over 3,000 people a year through our programs. To learn more about Pacific Center does for the community, click any link below:

Support LGBTQ+ Mental Health

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Pacific Center (EIN: 94-2287492) relies upon individual donors’ generosity to sustain and grow our programs. 

There are a variety of ways you can financially contribute to the Pacific Center, and they all have a meaningful impact on our work. Learn more about your options for making a tax-deductible donation today! 

Please click here to sign up to give $20 (or more!) per month to become an Advocate.

All Advocates will receive a monthly email from our Executive Director with updates about new initiatives and a story about someone who has been positively impacted by Pacific Center’s services. In addition to that, Advocates will receive a welcome gift of Pacific Center stickers. 

Other ways you can support Pacific Center’s work include:


Pacific Center for Human Growth is a volunteer-driven agency and always looking for volunteers. As the agency’s backbone, volunteers provide a broad range of vital services and are given specific training and supervision on all projects. The Pacific Center is committed to the inclusion of all members of our community. QTPOC and people with disabilities are strongly urged to apply.

Front Desk and Outreach Team Volunteers

Generally, Front desk volunteers serve as the first point of contact between Pacific Center and the community. Volunteers answer the door and phone, respond to emails, assist in admin and facility tasks, and help provide resources to people that reach out to Pacific Center.

Skill-based Volunteerism and Internships

Pacific Center offers internships and long term volunteer opportunities to community members. These are opportunities to share your skills with their agency invaluable ways, mentor staff, or gain useful skills yourself and build up your resume. Pacific Center wants this to be a mutually beneficial relationship. If you are excited about any of the following, you may apply here – applications are accepted on a rolling basis. 

  • Media Production Intern
  • Development Intern/Donor Database Assistant
  • Facilities Volunteer

At this time, Pacific Center is extending its closure date through June 30, 2020. This is in a continued effort to reduce the risk of exposure and keep our community safe. 

While their building remains closed and all in-person, on-site, and off-site meetings have been canceled, Pacific Center has transitioned most of their services to an online format.  

They are now providing video/teleconferencing for therapy sessions, peer group meetings, and therapy groups. We are proud to continue to support our communities’ access to social and therapy support services during this unprecedented global event. Please visit the Pacific Center peer-group page or our events calendar for more information.



With long stemming roots, the Cannabis industry and the LGBTQ community have been through it all. From battling HIV/AIDS to now having prominent members from the LGBTQ community within our own, now is the perfect time to celebrate our journey together, and stock up on all your favorite products at your local BPG store!

Shop at Berkeley Patients Group in June to support Pacific Center and help those in the LGBT community. BPG will collect supplies to donate to Pacific Center participants, Sales from supporting brands like Kiva will benefit WCRC programs and participants.