With a 4-1 vote on Monday night, West Hollywood’s City Council approved updated cannabis regulations that allow patrons to take leftovers home from cannabis consumption lounges.
Under the revised ordinance, patrons of consumption lounges can take home up to three unique products, or three SKUs (stock-keeping units), that have been partially consumed onsite, regardless of how much THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) is contained in the product.
At present, this law only affects one business – the Original Cannabis Café (previously known as Lowell Café) at 1201 N. La Brea Ave., at Lexington, which is the only consumption lounge currently open. However, it will apply to the other approved lounges when they open.
The matter of allowing takeaways proved controversial since they are something never considered when the city was first writing its cannabis ordinances in 2018. The issue has only come up in recent months when businesses realized patrons might not consume everything in one sitting and were uncertain what to do with the leftovers.
Opponents of the change argue this is essentially allowing a business approved only for onsite consumption to operate as a defacto retail store since patrons will be able to take away cannabis products.
However, proponents of the law note that many cannabis products come prepackaged with multiple products, say three joints to a package or a dozen cannabis-infused candies in a box, so it is only fair to allow patrons to leave with the remainder of the package they purchased.
After almost an hour of public comment on the matter, the Council passed the ordinance with virtually no discussion. The council members had discussed the matter at length during its Dec. 2 meeting and settled on the three SKUs for takeaway then. So the public comment did not persuade them to change their minds on Monday night.
Councilmember Lauren Meister cast the only dissenting vote. She wanted city staffers to study the take-away issue further and report back so she could examine the facts about SKUs, product weight and dosages. She also worried about dosages and individual tolerance levels, fearful some consumers might get too high and pose a danger to public safety upon leaving.
Of the 16 people who spoke during the public comment period, about half agreed with Meister that the matter needed further study before a final decision was made.
“In the interest of our future lounge patrons and the reputation of our city’s emerging cannabis industry, I urge you to take a step back, table this proposal and commission a study for what is reasonable onsite consumption before endangering people’s lives,” said Jeff Danzer, who is an owner and executive chef at the soon-to-open Budberry edible consumption lounge.
Danzer noted that other states set standards of 10 mg of THC per serving or 100 mg of THC per package. He also cautioned that there should be different consumption standards for smoking versus vaping versus edibles because THC interacts with the body differently depending on how it is ingested.
However others, such as license holders Nazanin Lahijoni and Nina Korsandi, who supported allowing takeaways, said the public safety argument was fear mongering to protect market share.
“This has been and continues to be about market share, not safety,” said Korsandi.
Jonathan Watters of the soon-to-open Fire Lounge said the average dessert has about 100 mg of THC, so it is unlikely people can consume it in one sitting. Thus, takeaways are needed.
Meanwhile, Scott Schmidt, executive director of AURA (Adult Use Retailers Association) said the Council prohibited takeaways in its original ordinance and should stick to that decision.
The revised cannabis ordinance approved Monday night also set a maximum period of 12 months after being approved for adult-use retail stores, medical dispensaries or delivery services to obtain their business license. If not obtained in that time period, they terminate their right to obtain it.
Due to recent changes in state cannabis laws, stores that have been approved as consumption lounges have 24 months from notification to obtain their business license or terminate their rights to obtain it. If a business has been approved for a combination of adult-use retail and consumption lounge or dispensary and consumption lounge, then the 24 months applies to that combination business.