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Amoeba Records Goes Green With On-Site Dispensary

How the jazz room of the California mainstay’s Berkeley location will usher in a new era of cannabis culture.

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The music industry may seem to have moved online for most Americans, but the few brick-and-mortar record stores left are enjoying a renaissance thanks to a vinyl boom among both young consumers and baby boomers recreating their old collections—as well as a resurgence of new bands releasing albums on vinyl. But the ingenuity that kept stores like Amoeba Records going strong through the dark days of the iTunes store’s novelty in the early 2000s—and a seemingly unstoppable impulse toward piracy—is still alive in 2015, and Amoeba has big plans for keeping record shop culture fresh. The combination of the outfit’s Berkeley location underachieving a few years ago and a bureaucratic coincidence set the imaginations of Amoeba’s co-owners off at a fever pitch. “The idea came to us when, at about the same time our Berkeley store was showing signs that it may not be able to get back to profitability very easily, we heard the city was going to allot one more medical cannabis permit,” explains co-owner Marc Weinstein. “[This was] back at the beginning of 2012.”

Weinstein and his fellow owner Dave Prinz have long been advocates for California’s medical marijuana scene, and the opportunity to fuse record store and cannabis cultures was too much to resist. “Dave and I have also been recreational cannabis smokers our entire adult lives, and remember well how taboo it was made in our generation despite the fact that so many people loved it for so many reasons,” says Weinstein. “This is a human rights Issue of a high order, especially now that so many citizens are aware of cannabis’s many potential benefits. [Opening a dispensary at Amoeba] represents a way to push back on the lifestyle that the pharmaceutical industry—and Wall Street in general—want us to accept. Cannabis is a product that brings healing and joy into people's lives, not unlike music. Both products provide healing and joy, and they are both about freedom. Historically, Record Shops were often the only place one could go to get their "head shop" supplies: papers, pipes, etc. And that was for a reason—similar demographics.”

With separate operations at the same location, Amoeba’s combination record store/head shop isn’t, as Weinstein points out, an entirely new idea—record stores have often been 420 friendly in the past—but the appeal of Amoeba for collectors and connoisseurs can’t be overstated, and neither can the vast overlapping of demographics that Weinstein points out. The jazz room at Amoeba’s Telegraph Avenue store will be cleared out, its records distributed elsewhere in the store, and Amoeba records will take a lifelong avocation for its co-owners and turn it into a one-stop shop for the perfect musical experience.

Weinstein is quick to point out that the operation is still in its nascent stages and they’re nowhere near the kind of symbiosis an Amoeba/cannabis enthusiast might hope for (i.e. cannabis and record or film pairings), when asked if there are any records he might hope to sell along with the first batch of Amoeba-approved cannabis, he nevertheless has an answer at the ready. “A few things come to mind that express our love and passion for cannabis,” he says. “One would be "Muggles" by Louis Armstrong, the father of modern American music in so many ways. He was a lifelong Cannabis user and expressed his joy for being alive with the help of his medicinal weed. Another might be "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley: "Emancipating ourselves from mental slavery" as Bob knew, is such a big part of what this life is all about.”

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