West Hollywood’s mayor, city manager and three city council members are going to reach out to the founder and CEO of Grindr and ask him to act on reports that the gay hookup app headquartered in West Hollywood facilitates illegal sales of methamphetamine.
In a story published two weeks ago, WEHOville cited reports in other media and its own investigation of meth dealers in West Hollywood to call out Grindr’s app as a tool used to sell the highly addictive drug, which is popular among some gay men. As WEHOville noted, competing apps such as Scruff have taken steps to make illegal drug sales very difficult. Grindr has not responded to multiple requests from WEHOville about the issue.
WEHOville’s story drew reaction from readers, especially those in the recovery community, but no public response from local elected officials.
However when questioned by WEHOville last week, Mayor Lauren Meister said that she and City Manager Paul Arevalo would meet with Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai to discuss the issue. In an email exchange, council members John D’Amico and John Duran said they also would reach out to Simkhai, who they described as a friend. Councilmember John Heilman said he would reach out to Grindr as well. Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said that Estevan Montemayor, the chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission and her appointee to that body, has asked for a report from Sheriff’s Station Capt. Holly Perez on what steps have been taken to deal with meth sales in West Hollywood. That request was initiated by Commission member Ben Coleman.
“I do agree that we can and should question Grindr about allowing users to use ‘trigger words’ to identify drug use – especially meth,” D’Amico said.
“The city could do more on the public education side with the kind of edgy and provocative messaging and images we’ve produced to illustrate other kinds safety concerns and public interest issues. Info that could speak directly to those not yet in the grips of meth addiction — what is in the drug and in store for them if they become addicted.”
Both Duran and D’Amico noted that the City of West Hollywood supports a variety of resources to help people after they have become addicted.
“The city invests millions of dollars in drug treatment, mental health, homeless services and public safety to address the various wreckage caused by this insidious problem,” D’Amico said in an email message. “And our partners at the county invest even more. Meth is a dangerous drug that kills.
“For gay men the nexus between HIV infection and crystal is clear – in fact I worked with Ferd Eggan (deceased) the former City of Los Angeles AIDS coordinator in 1996/97 as he organized a ground breaking, community study of crystal meth use and gay men.
“In addition, In 1997/8, I taught a class at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SciArc) with the former City of West Hollywood Urban Planner John Chase(2) (deceased) on designing harm reduction housing for people with AIDS – that with an investment from the HOPWA program and the city of Los Angeles became an actual housing project in the Valley (Safe House) and for nearly two decades after was a place where harm reduction was practiced as people learned to stabilize their HIV disease.”