Original Cannabis Dealers Raise $146,000 to Push for Permanent Adult Retail Licenses

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.


9 Comments
  1. They originals should be allowed to have a license regardless of the process. They came in and took the risk when you were only allowed to sell medical marijuana, and the risk of being shutdown by the government was much greater. Now just because the city wants the stores to look like the Barney’s or Neiman’s of pot they want to put the stores that have served the community for so many years out of business. If these stores are going to be so amazing let them drive the originals out of business based on competition. It’s clear why the city won’t let that happen because they know most people like the store they have been going to for years. They know the people that work their and are loyal customers. I think it is pretty sad that the city will just toss away businesses when they decided they have no use for the anymore.

  2. All current legislation on the state level is by unanimous voter consent, any cannabis advocate not for the “re-write” measure is on on the wrong side of history and not recognizing the vehicle which is used to create as much of a comprehensive market place that is possible.

  3. I’m voting YES. The process was rigged from the start and a developer crony of the council is part owner of Calma. Also, is the city really in the position to turn down added tax dollars right now?? So many businesses are abandoned and boarded up.

    1. Everything I’ve heard and read about the process indicates it was a thorough and fair process. Please don’t start this campaign off with unsupported allegations about the process being rigged. I’d much rather have a discussion about why these four deserve to have their licenses expanded; and what affects that may have on the the four businesses that invested their time and money into their applications and presentations that earned them a retail license in our City.

      Second, please expand on your thought process as to why having more cannabis retailers means more taxes and revenue for the City – is it simply more shops generate more sales creates more revenue? I don’t know what current demand levels are for cannabis, but for the City to increase revenue from taxes on cannabis, wouldn’t it require a demand level not currently being met? Conversely, if demand is being met with 4 license holders and the City expanded to 8 retailers, couldn’t that increase competition resulting in lower product pricing leading to reduced revenue for the City? Sincerely asking.

  4. The City created a fair process. The “originals” didn’t cut it. I’m voting NO on the prop supported by them that would re-write City policy.

    1. As much as I loathe validating anonymity in public commentary, you’re absolutely right. There was a process. Everyone knew the process going in. It’s a hard no vote for me.

      1. I’m glad you agree with me – even though you don’t know my name. And even happier to hear you’re voting as I will be. I hope there are many more of us come election day.

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