Come November, West Hollywood voters will likely see two competing initiatives on the ballot regarding the city’s cannabis shops. At its last two meetings, the West Hollywood City Council approved sending the two initiatives to voters.
Both initiatives would alter the city’s existing regulations about cannabis shops, although one drastically more than the other. However, the City Council also hopes that a compromise between the competing initiatives can be reached before the early August final deadline for placement on the November ballot.
The first initiative seeks to rewrite large portions of the city’s cannabis regulations, regulations that city staffers spent a year drafting with significant input from experts and residents. The second one seeks to keep the those existing cannabis regulations intact except for some minor changes.
The first initiative was instigated by the city’s four original cannabis dispensaries – MedMen, Alternative Herbal Health Services, Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group, and Zen Healing Collective– collectively known as “The Originals.” These four shops have been selling medical marijuana for years and automatically received licenses to continue to sell medical marijuana under the city’s new cannabis regulations enacted after California legalized sale of recreational marijuana beginning in 2018.
These four Originals all applied for licenses to become “adult use retailers,” which sell recreational marijuana. However, all four were denied those adult use licenses after a committee determined eight other shops had better proposals. Eight is the maximum number of recreational or “adult use” cannabis shops the city will allow.
However, while those eight recreational marijuana shops that did receive approval were busy getting their business licenses and building their stores, the city has allowed the four Originals to temporarily sell recreational cannabis. Those temporary recreational licenses expire at the end of 2020, at which time the Originals will be forced to resume selling only medical cannabis. The problem is, since legalization, people no longer need a doctor’s recommendation to purchase cannabis, so the medical cannabis business has essentially dried up. Only about three percent of all cannabis sales in the state are medical cannabis now.
The Originals lobbied the City Council to give them permanent licenses to sell recreational marijuana, but the Council refused. Consequently, the Originals circulated a petition to combine the medical marijuana and the “adult use” retailers license categories, thereby expanding the number of recreational shops from eight to 16 and, in the process, granting recreational licenses to the four Originals. Their petition also includes numerous other changes to the city’s regulations governing cannabis shops including combining consumption lounge categories and changing the rules regarding sale/transfer of licenses. Because the Originals received the required number of signatures on their petition, the City Council voted unanimously at its June 1 meeting to send it to the voters in the November election.
The second initiative was started by the eight businesses that received approval to open recreational marijuana shops in the city. Those eight shops banded together under the name Adult Use Retailers Association of West Hollywood (AURA) to fight the Originals. This second initiative would keep the number of recreational marijuana shops in the city at eight, thereby leaving the city’s existing regulations governing cannabis shops in place, save for some minor alterations.
Published: June 16, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News