West Hollywood, or as locals call it, “WeHo,” is politically progressive by anyone’s standards. Nearly 40 percent of its entire population identifies as LGBTQ, and it was one of the first communities in California to embrace medical cannabis after Proposition 215 was approved in 1996. In 2006, West Hollywood became one of the first cities in Southern California to make cannabis law enforcement’s “lowest priority.”
Alternative Herbal Health Services (AHHS), Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group (LAPCG), MedMen and Zen Healing Collective are considered to be West Hollywood’s original dispensaries—having been around as medical dispensaries long before any other dispensaries opened up in the vicinity. AHHS has been around since the late ’90s. But those four dispensaries were left out of West Hollywood’s exclusive list of eight dispensaries that were granted permanent recreational licenses in December 2018.
The four medical dispensaries, they claim, must also sell recreational cannabis in order to stay in competition with the rest. Several of the recreational businesses have ambitious plans to open Amsterdam-styled lounges for social consumption—and those could be open in as little as three months under West Hollywood’s lenient laws. The operators behind the four medical dispensaries fought valiantly to be included in some way in the city’s recreational market. They claim that if anything, they deserve to be granted adult-use licenses above anyone else.
To provide a solution to the dilemma, West Hollywood officials granted them temporary adult-use licenses that need to be constantly extended. For now, they can continue to sell recreational cannabis until the businesses that won permanent licenses open for business. On June 17, the West Hollywood City Council voted 4-1 to update the implementation of the city’s Cannabis Ordinance, extending the local temporary adult-use retail cannabis licenses for the existing four medical dispensaries in the city until March 31, 2020.
Sheri A. Lunn, public information officer for the City of West Hollywood, provided CULTURE with a statement on behalf of Councilmember John Heilman. “The West Hollywood City Council approved, by a 4-1 vote, a motion by Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath, seconded by Councilmember John Heilman, which among other things, directs staff to bring back an amendment to the City’s Cannabis Ordinance extending temporary adult-use retail cannabis licenses for the existing four medical dispensaries to a date to be determined by Council at a future meeting once a majority of the new cannabis licensees are operational,” the statement reads.
“The four businesses that are currently selling adult-use cannabis will remain in business until we decide the process is complete and other businesses are open and operational.”
It’s unclear how long the four original medical dispensaries will be able to sell recreational cannabis. “The four businesses that are currently selling adult-use cannabis will remain in business until we decide the process is complete and other businesses are open and operational,” Mayor John D’Amico said at the June 17 meeting. After March 31, 2020, those four medical dispensaries will not be able to sell recreational cannabis unless further changes are made.
A new amendment to update the city’s Cannabis Ordinance is in the works, and for now, the four original medical dispensaries can continue to sell recreational cannabis. The cannabis market in California is constantly evolving, and many residents choose to no longer get medical recommendations, because they don’t need them. Dispensaries have no choice other than to cater to recreational consumers if they want to remain profitable.