Supporters of a proposition on the Nov. 3 ballot that would dramatically re-write West Hollywood’s cannabis retail license process have raised $145,628 to promote it.
According to campaign finance documents, MedMen, United Local 770, and Zen Healing are the primary backers of “West Hollywood Residents and Businesses for Fairness, a Coalition of Cannabis Businesses, UFCW Local 770, and Concerned Residents.” MedMen has contributed $90,000, the union has contributed $25,000, and another $25,000 has come from Alex Kardos, partner and founder of Where Eagles Fly LLC, which qualified for a cannabis consumption lounge license from the City of West Hollywood in 2018.
The ballot initiative was created by all four of the city’s original cannabis dispensaries – MedMen, Alternative Herbal Health Services, Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group, and Zen Healing Collective– collectively known as “The Originals.” These four shops have been selling medical marijuana for years and automatically received licenses to continue to sell medical marijuana under the city’s new cannabis regulations enacted after California legalized sale of recreational marijuana beginning in 2018.
These four Originals all applied for licenses to become “adult use retailers,” which sell recreational marijuana. However, all four were denied those adult use licenses after a committee determined eight other shops had better proposals. Eight is the maximum number of recreational or “adult use” cannabis shops the city will allow.
However, while those eight recreational marijuana shops that did receive approval were busy getting their business licenses and building their stores, the city has allowed the four Originals to temporarily sell recreational cannabis. Those temporary recreational licenses expire at the end of this year, at which time the Originals will be forced to resume selling only medical cannabis. The problem is, since legalization, people no longer need a doctor’s recommendation to purchase cannabis, so the medical cannabis business has essentially dried up. Only about three percent of all cannabis sales in the state are medical cannabis now.
The Originals lobbied the City Council to give them permanent licenses to sell recreational marijuana, but the Council refused. Consequently, the Originals circulated a petition to combine the medical marijuana and the “adult use” retailers license categories, thereby expanding the number of recreational shops from eight to 16 and, in the process, granting recreational licenses to the four Originals. Their petition also includes numerous other changes to the city’s regulations governing cannabis shops including combining consumption lounge categories and changing the rules regarding sale/transfer of licenses. Because the Originals received the required number of signatures on their petition, the City Council voted unanimously at its June 1 meeting to send it to the voters in the November election.
Another measure on the Nov. 3 ballot was created by Adult Use Retailers Association of West Hollywood (AURA), which represents the eight businesses that did receive approval to open recreational marijuana shops. It would keep the number of recreational marijuana shops in the city at eight, thereby leaving the city’s existing regulations governing cannabis shops in place, save for some minor alterations.
AURA began collecting signatures on its petition in mid-March when the coronavirus Safer at Home quarantine orders went into effect. Those orders made it almost impossible to gather enough signatures to qualify for the November election (20% of registered voters). For that reason AURA asked the City Council to back its initiative and place it on the ballot. Since this item keeps the city’s existing regulations largely intact, the City Council voted in June to put it on the ballot.