(CNN) – Recreational sales of marijuana are now legal in the state of Washington, with strict guidelines on how it can be bought and sold, and a limited supply. However one city in California, where marijuana is only available for medical use, is looking to give pot to the poor.
Berkeley long ago cemented its reputation for being one of the most liberal cities in America. Today it’s certainly living up to that image, by giving away free marijuana to the poor.
In what appears to be the first of its kind ordinance nationwide, Berkeley will require that its medical marijuana dispensaries provide free cannabis to low income residents, which would also include the homeless.
“Is it a good idea to give free cannabis to the homeless?”
“When you couch it that way it sounds peculiar… but we’re talking about free medicine. This is medical cannabis that is used to relieve pain for glaucoma and heart problems and things of that nature so I think it is a good idea.”
Darryl Moore and the entire city council voted in favor of the measure, part of a 20-page ordinance to amend the municipal code. The document says at least 2% of a dispensary’s marijuana should be given to the indigent, who still must have a medical marijuana I.D. card or referral from a doctor.
But even here in Berkeley, where we placed an open mic, some worry the new ordinance will lead to abuse.
“Berkeley really has a terrible homeless problem. It’s just going to attract more homeless people to the area. I volunteer here at the local rehab clinic and I think it’s really going to create number of drug problems myself and my colleagues see on a regular basis.”
Low income here is defined as making less than $32,000 a year for an individual and less than $46,000 for a family of four.
“This will just open the door for people to get marijuana and sell it as opposed to them using it themselves for medicinal purposes.”
But advocates say this measure is all about compassion by providing medicine to those who can’t easily afford it.
You might think that a business would be opposed to having to give away their product for free, but here in Berkeley, with their medical marijuana dispensaries that is not the case, and in fact, one of them, the Berkeley Patients Group, has already been doing it for years.
“We realize that it is very difficult those who are severely ill to keep their employment and maintain their income at a steady pace to purchase their medicine.”
The medicine can get expensive. Frequent users can easily spend hundreds of dollars or more each month.
The dispensary says it’s been giving free weed to about 200 of its customers. And the city will even require the free marijuana be “the same quality on average that is dispensed to other members.” In other words, the good stuff.