I Got Free Berkeley Pot

by Steed Dropout
Sept. 21, 2014

Titled, halfway between People's Park and pot club. Photo by Ted Friedman.


I Got Free Berkeley Pot. I may give it back–for someone more needy–but for now I just want to stare at those precious crumbs and what they represent.

The crumbs represent the continuing efforts, for a quarter of a century, to legalize marijuana in Berkeley.

Some recipients may not be thankful; they’ve been getting free bud–if they qualify by low-income–from their pot clubs for up to fifteen years. The new old-policy seemed like city council political glad-handing.

My skeptical attitude changed when my club told me the other day that may name on a several hundred names free pot list had moved to the top. “After the city council’s recent decree, we’ve prioritized Berkeleyans,” I was told. “A lot of the names on the list were from outside Berkeley,” she added.

“You mean, my free pot is courtesy of the Berkeley City Council?” I squeaked.


The council and mayor made sure to exempt marijuana smokers from Berkeley’s progressive no-smoking ordinance.The pot giveaway was but the most recent event in Berkeley’s 35 years of marijuana reform.

When I first moved to Berkeley in 1970, I was eager to connect with a marijuana dealer. I met one who said he’d mistakenly sold me his best weed, then parked outside my apartment for months so he could huff it with me.

I progressed to a more professional dealer. She had a menu and bars on her windows. It was not easy to find dealers after her. A string of perfectly unreliable, but personable dealers followed. Sometime in the 80s, the Berkeley City Council recommended to police that marijuana citations be low-priority.

You noticed beat cops shaking their fingers at, but forgiving pot. Cops came to break up a party in my building, in this period; you could smell pot fumes but an officer called into the window of the boisterous students, “I don’t know know what you’re smoking in there, but put it away before I come in.”

A torrent of current pot arrests in People’s Park seems, at first, a departure from Berkeley’s liberal pot regulation. Until you learn the rest of the crackdown story.

People’s Park is owned by Cal and enforced by Cal. As complaints about perennial drug deals and other criminal activity in the park mount, university police have responded with the latest drug crackdown, which includes stepped-up park stay away orders. Citations for marijuana in the park often include additional (or tacked-on) offenses or involve enough marijuana for police to suspect intent to sell.

It is generally not understood that the marijuana recommendation from a physician, often specializing in such recommendations exclusively, is not a license to smoke marijuana in public or when driving.

At a political event/concert in the park, last week, a leading Berkeley community outreach worker complained that People’s Park Marijuana (and alcohol) users were being penalized for marijuana use while a pot club dispensed its product with impunity a few blocks away.

Michael Diehl, community outreach. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“Park people should be able (within reason) to use any drug they want to get stoned in People’s Park,” the worker urged.

Berkeley city cops will cite you on the streets for marijuana use under certain conditions, like outstanding warrants or uncooperative behavior, often referred to as obstructing justice or resisting arrest.

A pot-doc’s recommendation can cost up to $300, but is often advertised in the alternative press for $40 or less.

The community outreach worker noted in his recent speech in the park, that people who can’t afford the nearby dispensary “come to the park to score,” but are ensnarled in a police dragnet.

These views do not represent those of publications in which my work appears.

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