The West Hollywood City Council has agreed to extend until the end of the year the temporary recreational cannabis sales licenses granted to current medical cannabis vendors
The decision, made at last night’s City Council meeting, comes as the four existing medical cannabis dispensaries pushed for the Council to grant them recreational cannabis licenses after their failure to meet the criteria under which eight such licenses were approved for other vendors last year.
Jason Beck, owner of Alternative Herbal Health Services, and speaking on behalf of the four existing cannabis businesses, said: “We are pleased that the Council has recognized the importance of the existing cannabis businesses who have been the heart and soul of the legalization movement in West Hollywood and the state and will be continuing the discussion regarding issuing them adult use licenses.”
The city last year began a complex process that used an independent committee to evaluate more than 300 applicants for eight cannabis licenses in each of three categories: medical sales, recreational sales, delivery services, and lounges where cannabis edibles can be consumed and lounges where cannabis can be smoked or vaped. The City Council agreed to grant temporary recreational cannabis sales licenses to the four existing medical cannabis dispensaries while the independent committee evaluated the roughly 300 applications for cannabis licenses. Until last night’s decision, those licenses were set to expire in July.
The medical cannabis retailers granted the temporary licenses are Alternative Herbal Health Services at 7828 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group at 7213 Santa Monica Blvd., MedMen WeHo at 8208 Santa Monica Blvd. and Zen Healing at 8464 Santa Monica Blvd.
Since learning that they didn’t qualify for recreational cannabis licenses, representatives of those dispensaries have appeared at city meetings to ask that they be grandfathered in. Several of them have said that they would go out of business if they were only allowed to sell medical cannabis, also requires a county-issued card with a fee of $100.
The owners of the existing cannabis businesses argued that not having a recreational license would mean their employees would lose their jobs as the businesses closed. Some also argued that ending their recreational cannabis license in July could mean the city would have no recreational cannabis retailers, given the length process the winners of the new licenses must go through to actual open a store. That process includes finding a location for a store, obtaining a business license after going through a hearing before the city’s Business License Commission and obtaining necessary planning and building permits for any renovations required at the new location.
Several successful applicants for recreational licenses spoke out against extending the licenses of the existing cannabis firms or granting them retail sales licenses.
“I don’t think we should extend these license temporarily and also not to create new license period,” said Aaron Silverstein, CFO and co-founder of Aeon. “The simple fact is you had a procedure. You followed it meticulously and the first moment it became political, everything went out the door, everything you did.”
“The city should not put their thumb on the scale and arbitrarily change the vote,” Silverstein said. “ …. How can anyone trust West Hollywood’s word if it’s just going to change that at the last minute?”
City Councilmember Lauren Meister said the city should not extend the temporary retail licenses beyond July. “I feel we should not extend the temporary license past July 31. One of the reason is process and what the expectations were. I also think we had this discussion here … It was a very specific discussion where at least two of my colleagues said the existing medical cannabis businesses don’t get a pass.”
Meister said the city should instead focus on getting the new applicants into business as soon as possible.
However, Councilmember John Heilman said he thought the city should extend the current licenses to the end of the year because he doesn’t believe the applicants for new licenses will be able to open in time. Councilmember Lindsey Horvath agreed and also said the city should schedule a meeting of the Business License Commission as soon as possible to expedite the issue of business licenses. Councilmember John D’Amico also supported extending the temporary recreational licenses until the end of December and also asked that the city consider letting them continue recreational sales until the new applicants open. D’Amico recommended giving them six-months notice before they are required to close.
The Council agreed, in a three to one vote, to extend the temporary recreational sales licenses until Dec. 31 and asked that city staffers update them frequently on the status of those applicants who have been granted licenses.