The History of Cannabis and BPG
Ancient documents and burial sites reveal cannabis use for ceremonial and healing purposes.
American government encourages the production of hemp for rope, sails, and clothing. First cannabis law is set by the Virginia General Assembly in Jamestown, requiring that every household grow the plant (1619).
Mass unemployment during the Great Depression increases public resentment and fear of Mexican immigrants who use cannabis, instigating a flurry of research linking cannabis with violence, crime, and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by “racially inferior” or underclass communities. ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda film circulates widely and further influences public opinions on cannabis.
New York Academy of Medicine issues an extensively researched report declaring that, contrary to earlier research and popular belief, the use of cannabis does not induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.
A changing political and cultural climate reflects more lenient attitudes towards cannabis, and its use becomes widespread in the white upper-middle class. Reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson find that cannabis use does not induce violence nor lead to the use of heavier drugs. Policy towards cannabis begins to involve considerations of treatment as well as criminal penalties.
Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is implemented and Nixon declares the War on Drugs. This action contradicts 11 states that decriminalized marijuana and a majority of other states that weakened their laws against it. The action also contradicts the Commission on Marijuana & Drug Abuse’s findings (which Nixon established). The Commission recommends marijuana be decriminalized under state and federal law. Nixon ultimately buries the study.
President Ronald Reagan vows to crack down on substance abuse and reprioritize the War on Drugs; Nancy Reagan delivers her “Just Say No” speech. Meanwhile, the administrative law judge for the DEA concludes that “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” and recommends the plant be placed in a less restrictive category.
Anti-cannabis laws lead to mass incarceration for nonviolent crimes, disproportionally targeting minorities. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than 2.3 million people are currently being held in the American criminal justice system. Nearly half a million people are incarcerated because of a drug offense.
As a result of the AIDS crisis, and activists like Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary, California voters pass Proposition 215 allowing for the sale and medical use of cannabis for patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious and painful diseases.
Access to medicinal cannabis is deeply needed but severely limited. Berkeley Patients Group founders Jim McClelland, Don Duncan, and Debby Goldsberry seek to create a safe place where underserved patients can acquire high-quality medicine in a welcoming, community-centric environment. Berkeley Patients Group wins Miscellaneous Use permit issued by the City of Berkeley on October 31.
Jim McClelland’s personal battle with AIDS and subsequent death in 2001 from complications of the disease further underscores the need to ensure all patients are treated with love and respect and provided the safest medicinal cannabis. Jim’s leadership, bravery, and commitment to the patient community was unparalleled by anyone else during the infancy of this newly created industry.
Etienne Fontan, now co-owner, joins Berkeley Patients Group and helps found Americans for Safe Access with Don Duncan.
California Senate Bill 420, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, is passed by the State Legislature, which clarifies the scope and application of Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, and establishes the California medical marijuana program.
Berkeley initiative Patients Access to Medical Cannabis Act (PACMA) fails by 900+ votes, and a recount fails by 191 votes, prompting widespread criticism of the Diebold voting machines’ security and integrity. Americans for Safe Access and two Berkeley Patients Group employees file a lawsuit, and a Judge orders that a new election be held in November of 2008. The new City of Berkeley Medical Marijuana Initiative is approved by 62% of voters.
BPG grows into new leadership and is established as a staple of its community. To honor BPG’s 10-year anniversary, the city of Berkeley officially recognized BPG’s contributions by declaring October 31st to be Berkeley Patients Group Day. The Cole Memo prohibits federal intervention in state-legal cannabis regulations.
Federal government evicts Berkeley Patients Group from 2747 San Pablo Ave, forcing the conversion to a temporary delivery service before reopening at 2366 San Pablo Ave.BPG wins tax case with State
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag attempts to close dispensaries across California through civil asset forfeiture actions. Under this law, no crime needs to be established to take a property. BPG is targeted and the property is seized, despite meticulously operating under all state and city regulations. BPG elects to fight and progress drug policy reform by suing the government.
Barbara Lee provides 15th Anniversary Congressional recognition.
Proposition 64 passes, legalizing cannabis use for adults in California over 21.
Berkeley passes adult use. Federal case forfeiture is dismissed, quite fittingly, on Berkeley Patients Group’s 17th anniversary of Berkeley Patients Group. Former Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates joins BPG leadership and legal teams to celebrate dismissal of federal case.
Berkeley Patients Group facilitates the first legal cannabis sale in California to long-time activists Mickey Norris and Chris Conrad, who purchased a Jack Herer Pre-Roll honoring the legendary cultivator and activist. Sue Gardea, who’s been with BPG for 10 years, facilitates the sale. BPG successfully works with the city of Berkeley to lower cannabis tax from 10% to 5%. According to Gallup, 66% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, an all time high.
BPG Celebrates 20th Anniversary and Launches $1 Million for Good Campaign, supporting 10 local non profits making positive impacts in their East Bay Community.