Pubdate: Mon, 25 Sep 2017
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Los Angeles Times
Author: Emily Alpert Reyes



The idea of alarms critics of the marijuana industry, who argue that
such venues would become a nuisance and drag down property values.

The idea of alarms critics of the marijuana industry, who argue that
such venues would become a nuisance and drag down property values.

Los Angeles lawmakers are laying the groundwork for what is widely
expected to be one of the hottest markets for marijuana in the
country, one that could bring more than $50 million in taxes to city
coffers next year.

The city is drafting rules to allow greenhouses that grow cannabis,
industrial facilities that process it, and new shops that sell it for
recreational use, not just medical need.

But anyone expecting L.A. to become the next Amsterdam may be
disappointed: It has held back, so far, on welcoming cafes or lounges
where customers could smoke or consume cannabis.

That has troubled some marijuana advocates and attorneys, who warn
that even after California legalizes the sale of recreational pot,
many tourists and renters could be left without a safe, legal place to
use it in Los Angeles.

"It's ridiculous that the city doesn't consider that," said attorney
Bruce Margolin, executive director of the L.A. chapter of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Margolin said he was offended that even as cannabis was on the verge
of local legitimacy, "the City Council is still treating marijuana
users like criminals."

The question is one example of the thorny debates that Los Angeles
faces as it crafts new regulations on cannabis businesses, an industry
still in limbo between California and Capitol Hill.

Under draft regulations released earlier this year, it would be
illegal for L.A. pot shops and other cannabis businesses to allow
marijuana consumption on site.

It is also illegal, under state law, to consume it in a public place.
And smoking pot will remain illegal anywhere that cigarette smoking is
banned. At a recent city hearing, several speakers complained that
could leave tourists and renters in the lurch.

Tourists "can't smoke it outside. Can't smoke it in a hotel. Can't
smoke it in a rental car," said George Boyadjian, president of 420
College, which provides seminars on cannabis business regulations.
"Where are these people supposed to use their cannabis?"

Under some leases, "you can be evicted for committing a federal
crime," said cannabis attorney Pamela Epstein, owner and founder of
Green Wise Consulting. Epstein argued that if Los Angeles doesn't want
those renters to smoke marijuana outside, it needs to give them a
designated place to go.

The idea alarms critics of the marijuana industry, who argue that such
venues would become a nuisance and drag down property values.

"Most people don't even want a marijuana store in their community, let
alone a place where you can actually consume," said Kevin Sabet,
president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposed the
California measure to legalize selling recreational marijuana. He was
skeptical that Californians would have trouble finding somewhere to

Even if they do, "I don't think we should be in the business of
facilitating places where people can get high," Sabet said.

The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs argued that permitting
marijuana to be consumed at businesses would ramp up the risk of
intoxicated driving.

Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally agreed,
saying it is difficult for police or users themselves to know if
someone is too high to drive.

And UC San Francisco clinical professor of psychiatry Peter Banys
argued that cities should hold off on allowing any "consumption cafes"
until there is better research on intoxicated driving.

"There are questions that simply haven't been answered," Banys

Margolin said the idea is hardly new, pointing to the famed shops of
Amsterdam. San Francisco already allows consumption lounges at a small
number of medical marijuana dispensaries, and as it prepares for
recreational pot, a city task force has recommended allowing cannabis
consumption at retailers.

In Colorado, Denver is launching a pilot program to allow
bring-your-own marijuana consumption at some businesses that do not
sell pot or alcohol, though it has yet to process any applications.
And Alaska and Nevada have also started exploring similar ideas.

Although some private cannabis clubs have quietly operated in
California cities, local governments have been slow to officially
embrace "social use" because it isn't as familiar to them as other
kinds of marijuana businesses, said Jolene Forman, staff attorney with
the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group opposed to the war on drugs.

Forman argued that a lack of legal spaces to smoke could have
unintended consequences, such as pushing renters or tourists to turn
to edibles that are harder to detect. Switching to edibles, in turn,
could make it harder for new users to determine how much they should

"If you give people spaces where they can safely smoke or vape, there
is no risk of that," Forman said.

When California hammered out state rules for permitting recreational
marijuana, it left the door open for local governments to allow
cannabis consumption at retailers as long as the facilities are
restricted to people 21 or older, keep marijuana consumption out of
sight of younger people or the public, and do not offer up alcohol or
tobacco as well.

West Hollywood has been drafting rules to allow lounges where
marijuana can be consumed. In July, the West Hollywood City Council
invited a panel of experts to weigh in on cannabis regulation. Among
them was Cat Packer of the Drug Policy Alliance, who warned that "if
consumers and patients don't have a place to consume, they're going to
do it outside."

"So if you don't want them consuming outside, I think it makes sense
to give them a space where they can consume responsibly," Packer said,
pointing out that consumption could include applying lotion or eating

Packer now heads L.A.'s Department of Cannabis Regulation, but it is
city lawmakers who are making decisions about those rules. Many Los
Angeles City Council members said they had not yet considered the
issue of allowing cannabis consumption at businesses, which has taken
a back seat to other concerns such as where pot shops can locate.

"The full force of our attention is on creating the requirements for
cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail businesses," Caolinn
Mejza, a spokeswoman for City Council President Herb Wesson, said in a
written statement. "As time goes by we will deal with other issues and

Packer added that the city regulations are likely to continue to
evolve with time. "This is the beginning of the conversation," she

One councilman said he was open to the idea of cannabis lounges.

"It's hard to say you can't smoke in your home -- especially for
medical marijuana, where people have real needs -- and yet we won't
let you smoke somewhere else," said Councilman Paul Koretz, who has
concerns about how secondhand smoke affects tenants. "Either people
need to be able to smoke in their apartments or they need some other
places set aside."

Koretz added, however, that the city should first scrutinize the
hazards of people driving while high. Those concerns were echoed by
Councilman Mitch Englander, who said if Los Angeles considers allowing
marijuana consumption at businesses, the overriding question must be,
"Can they be regulated in a way that they would be safe?"

Cannabis business attorney Hilary Bricken said she was disappointed,
but not surprised, that many cities seem to fear that cannabis bars
will encourage "bad behavior."

Bars serving alcohol are everywhere, Bricken said, "but there's
clearly different treatment of cannabis, in a way that really doesn't
give cannabis a chance to be a responsible activity."
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