The West Hollywood City Council last night decided to request a study of the impact of an item on its agenda that would significantly alter the city’s cannabis licensing process. In so doing, it postponed making a decision on the item until its June 1 meeting.
The item on the Council’s agenda called for the city to modify its cannabis licensing ordinance by merging the separate recreational and medical cannabis categories and merging the separate categories for lounges where cannabis is smoked and those where cannabis products are eaten. It is the result of a campaign by three of the city’s four medical cannabis businesses to secure permanent licenses to sell recreational cannabis. That “West Hollywood Close the Loopholes Initiative” has obtained 3,168 verified signatures from the city’s more than 28,000 registered voters which means it will be on the Nov. 3 election ballot if the Council should choose not to adopt it.
None of those businesses — Alternative Herbal Health Services, Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group, Zen Healing Collective, and also MedMen — qualified for a recreational cannabis license under criteria established by the city in 2018 to evaluate applications for eight licenses in five different category, which include sale of recreational cannabis, sale of medical cannabis, operation of a lounge where cannabis can be smoked or vaped, operation of a lounge that sells edible cannabis products for consumption on site and cannabis delivery services. All were granted temporary recreational sales licenses that expire on Jan. 31, 2021. MedMen is not part of the “Close the Loophole” campaign and has filed its own lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court asking that the city’s licensing process be voided.
The eight successful applicants for recreational sales licenses, who have organized as the Adult Use Retail Association, have brought forward their own petition for the Nov. 3 ballot that asks voters to endorse the existing license process. In a letter to the City Council, AURA noted that it was unable to secure the signatures needed to get its measure on the ballot because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively banned door-to-door and sidewalk signature gathering. It is asking the City Council to put its initiative on the ballot along with that of the “Close the Loophole” campaign.
Asking for a study of the impact of the “Close the Loophole” initiative was one of several options before the Council. It also could have set a special meeting of the Council in 10 days to consider whether or not to vote to implement the changes. And it could have simply agreed to put the initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot. The successful applicants for recreational cannabis licenses have said the impact of merging medical and recreational licenses would significantly create competition by allowing 16 businesses to sell recreational cannabis rather than the eight originally approved.
City Councilmember John Heilman noted that the Council could put a measure of its own on the No. 3 ballot and said that delaying a vote on the initiative would give time to come up with a compromise between what both sides are demanding. City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath asked that the city look into allegations that those gathering signatures for the petition were not honest in describing it to signers. She said she also had received complaints from residents that the signature gatherers were going door-to-door during the “Stay at Home” mandate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.