A rapidly relaxing public attitude toward medical marijuana is finding entrepreneurs scrambling for limited medical marijuana dispensary licenses. Among this rush, we’re seeing exceedingly creative approaches to taking advantage of a massive market that’s still in its infancy. In early October of 2015, it became public knowledge that Amoeba Music had officially applied for consideration to open up a medical marijuana dispensary in their Berkeley location.
UPDATE: Amoeba Officially Enters the Recreational Marijuana Business
When we originally published this blog in 2015, Amoeba’s Berkeley store was still in the process of trying to acquire a license. In May of this year (2018), they finally opened the doors of their dispensary, a recreational cannabis shop called Hi Fidelity. As originally planned, the shop is situated where the jazz and classical sections once stood. Meanwhile, Amoeba’s Hollywood location is preparing to move within blocks of its original location but is also planning to apply for a recreational cannabis license.
Amoeba as a Beacon in the Post-MP3 Music Industry
If you’re a music fan, you’ve more than likely heard of California’s Amoeba Music, even if you live nowhere near the Golden State. Amoeba’s first location opened in Berkeley in 1997 with additional locations following in San Francisco and Hollywood. Today, Amoeba stands as one of the most iconic brick-and-mortar record stores to survive a post-mp3 industry. Part of Amoeba’s survival strategy involves the company’s openness to embrace products that reach beyond music while keeping a symbiotic relationship with their sonically-focused aesthetic. In 2014, Amoeba’s San Francisco location debuted Green Evaluations, a medical marijuana clinic that allowed music fans to pick up a California state medical marijuana card with their records, CDs and DVDs. But now Amoeba is ready to take an even more ambitious step in aligning themselves with the 420 community.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses Are a Hot Commodity in Berkeley
Berkeley was host to a modest three medical marijuana dispensaries in 2010 when the city authorized a fourth through the voter-approved Measure T. Amoeba’s original Berkeley location on Telegraph Ave. wasted no time in putting in their application. The application process found Amoeba pitted against five other companies, four of which were not natives to Berkeley. Naturally, the independent record store hoped this would work in its favor with the City Council who ultimately decided which company received the honor of hosting Berkeley’s latest medical marijuana dispensary.
Differing Perspectives on Motivation
If granted the right to host their own medical marijuana dispensary, Amoeba plan to shift their jazz and classical section to accommodate their latest enterprise. While shoppers may have been excited by the prospects of picking up some jazz cigarettes with their jazz records, the dispensary will actually exist independent of the music store with its own separate entrance. One of Amoeba’s owners, Marc Weinstein, highlights the deliberate nature of this divide, stating, “There have been, culturally, connections between cannabis and music making. That’s not our point.” However, Weinstein’s statements seem to be contradicted by those of his business partner, co-owner David Prinz. Prinz has quipped on the record that “music and weed go together like…music and weed.” If that’s still too ambiguous of a statement, Prinz further clarifies, “Weed can help save music.”
The Promise Offered by a Local Dispensary
It’s Prinz’s statement that carries in it the unsurprising truth behind Amoeba Berkeley’s push to offer their take on the medical marijuana dispensary. The Berkeley Amoeba is no longer turning a profit. Of course, no one really believes that Amoeba is trying to install a dispensary on Telegraph Ave. as a charitable contribution to the community anyway. Rather, the combined statements of Weinstein and Prinz highlight the greater truth: a medical marijuana dispensary does stand to bring more foot traffic (and with it, money) to a culturally significant street teeming with independent businesses pushing back against online conglomerates.
No matter their motivation, Amoeba has proven they have the vision and means to augment their Berkeley store with a full service medical marijuana dispensary. It now remains to be seen how the City Council rules after an in-depth series of community talks and the official endorsement of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission. In the modern times of cannabis legalization, stranger things have happened than mixing music and marijuana.