LA Department of City Planning Setting Rules for Pot Consumption Sites
Possessing or smoking pot is now legal in California and that legitimacy is celebrated in Los Angeles. The only problem is there’s no place to smoke. It’s illegal to smoke on the streets. It’s illegal to smoke in an apartment. It’s illegal to smoke in parks, offices, doorways, pretty much anywhere. If you own a home (renters need not apply) you can smoke there. Now that’s settled.
So what’ll be the solution to this little problem? Where will it be OK to ingest cannabis, by smoke, vape or swallowing?
The LA Department of City Planning is leaning in to solve the problem, which suggests this variant on Reagan’s cynical quip: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you get stoned.”
A meeting was held in City Hall on June 26 that brought together senior Los Angeles city planners, a representative of the West Hollywood cannabis business community and two top representatives of NORML, the organization led by Bruce Margolin that’s striven to make pot legal for 51 years.
It must have been a heady moment for Margolin. Seated at a conference table in Los Angeles City Hall, he and his deputy director, Roseann Boffa, were there to suggest rules for cannabis lounges that in a few years will be spread across this fair city. The planning folks have been mandated by the Department of Cannabis Regulation to come up with formal rules that will allow at least three types of businesses to arise: cannabis lounges that are ancillary to retail dispensaries; retail facilities that are connected to lounges; and stand-alone establishments such as coffee houses familiar to travelers in Amsterdam.
At this moment, it is a blank tablet. The rules are unwritten. Even the criteria for what might exist are gauzy. The city is committed to an “equity” policy that will give preference in licensing to those who were harmed (ie, arrested) in the war on drugs. For those who happen not to have a million dollars to set up a growing facility, here could be a way to tap into what promises to be one of the fastest growing businesses in California history. A standalone lounge where someone can sit down, chat with a friend, maybe hear some music, and smoke or eat cannabis products delivered to order – this is a new beast. Rules to license and monitor such businesses are being written.
As with the rest of pot’s proud history, there are at least 1,800 illegal cannabis companies operating in LA at this moment, officials acknowledged. The goal, going forward, is to bring everything under the aegis of legitimacy, and taxation. And also, one hopes, predictability and security.
More than money is at stake here, all present acknowledged. The communitarian, ego-dissolving and sacramental aspects of cannabis beckon a place at the table. Entirely new kinds of businesses are going to arise. And they need to exist alongside all the other businesses and services of the city. Schools, libraries, homes for the infirm, for all of which buffer requirements exist. The matrix of variables that will determine where your favorite future pot lounge sits is extraordinarily complex.
The good news is: this is coming, and it’s a priority of the city to promulgate rules that are fair and rational and to do it as expeditiously as possible. A report will go to the city council later this summer. By the fall there will be an opportunity for public comment. In the winter there will be an ordinance that licenses establishments large and small to enable cannabis to be imbibed indoors – legally – in the city of Los Angeles.
Hovering over all this will be decades of insight and vision that made NORML an avatar of what is today enshrined in law. Bruce Margolin and Roseann Boffa will monitor the progress of the city, aiming to be sure that nothing stupid makes its way into the ordinance that’s coming.
Published: June 27, 2018
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News