Pubdate: Fri, 20 Apr 2018
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2018 Los Angeles Times
Author: Sarah Parvini


For decades, it has embraced its gay and lesbian bars and the rock 'n'
roll debauchery of the Sunset Strip. It runs a free nightlife trolley
called The PickUp, with a jar of free condoms by the door.

Now, it's embracing a different type of social scene: pot lounges.

The city is poised to allow cannabis lounges where people can consume
the once-taboo product in a social setting. West Hollywood will join
San Francisco, Oakland and South Lake Tahoe, which earlier this year
became some of the first cities in California to open the consumption
lounges modeled after those in Amsterdam. Communities in the Coachella
Valley are also joining the ranks.

Since California voters legalized cannabis in 2016, some cities have
embraced marijuana dispensaries, while others have actively fought
against pot sales. The state is home to the largest legal pot market
in the country, and proponents see lounges as the next step in
embracing pot sales and creating avenues for safe use.

But the idea of marijuana lounges has also ignited some of the same
debates that marked the vote to legalize cannabis: Critics worry
lounges and other expansions of cannabis culture could be dangerous,
citing impaired driving in states where recreational use was
previously legalized, and the difficulties of assessing a marijuana

Pot advocates have criticized Los Angeles for not embracing marijuana
cafes and lounges. They argue allowing these businesses would help
tourists, who under the law can't smoke in public or in places like
hotels, where regular smoking is banned. Several L.A. law enforcement
groups, including the Los Angeles Police Protective League, came out
against the lounge proposal.

"Consumption lounges are important because marijuana has been
legalized, but where can people go to safely consume?" said Jackie
Rocco, business development manager for West Hollywood. "If you're a
renter and your landlord doesn't allow smoking, or if you're a parent
and don't want to do it around your children, where can you go?"

Last November, the City Council approved a new cannabis use ordinance
allowing business licenses for consumption areas or lounges in West
Hollywood. The city will start accepting applications for consumption
lounges in May. Officials plan to grant up to eight licenses for
lounges with smoking, vaping and edibles, and eight permits restricted
to edibles. Each application will be scored by a five-member committee.

"We're at the center of everything that is entertainment," said West
Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath. "This new economy really
addresses needs and interests of the community while also being a way
for people to enjoy themselves. Pushing the envelope on entertainment
while safely enjoying a night out -- that's what we're continuing to
do here."

The city has long been at the forefront of the national conversation
about decriminalizing the use of cannabis -- in part because of the
way the city embraced pot during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

"In the early days, obviously we had a number of people, and still do
in the community, who are personally impacted by HIV and AIDS and that
caused us to support medical use of cannabis," said West Hollywood
Mayor John Heilman. "The city, I would say, was a pioneer of sorts."

San Francisco's Barbary Coast Collective most closely resembles the
coffee shops found in Amsterdam, where customers can buy weed. The
store -- with its crimson wallpaper and leather booths, a nod to the
area's past as the red-light district -- hosts a smoking section in
its lounge while also operating a dispensary and dab bar.

The shop also offers "education days," on which people curious about
cannabis can learn about different products and solicit

In the past, the city has allowed medical marijuana users to smoke in
dispensaries, but with some debate. Some wondered whether the practice
was supported by Proposition 215, which allowed for "compassionate
use" and legalized cannabis with a doctor's recommendation.

Customers smoke marijuana while sitting in a booth in the smoking
lounge at Barbary Coast Dispensary in San Francisco. The city plans to
issue more permits for marijuana smoking lounges this year after
health officials finalize updated regulations. (Jeff Chiu / Associated

For Palm Springs and Cathedral City, the concept of pot lounges fits
into the resort economy officials are trying to bolster.

"It's really the next logical step, especially when you have a tourist
economy like we do," said Cathedral City City Councilman Shelley Kaplan.

Most hotels don't allow smoking or vaping, Kaplan said, so it makes
sense for cannabis lounges to be available.

"We basically consider cannabis a business like any other in the
city," he said. "There's no question that people who use cannabis will
want to use cannabis when they're here ."

City officials said applications should be open in the next month, but
not everyone supports lounges.

Cathedral City City Councilman Mark Carnevale, who supports medical
marijuana but campaigned against recreational use, said he is "totally
against" allowing consumption areas.

"You can go to a bar and have a drink or two and be OK," Carnevale
said. "Marijuana, the effects last and I think it can be disastrous on
the road. I don't see the need for it. If you want to use it, go to
your hotel or your house."

Palm Springs was one of the first cities to roll out recreational
marijuana sales in January, but it has received only three
applications for lounge licenses, officials said.

"The floodgates are open, but nobody is running in," Mayor Pro Tem
J.R. Roberts said.

Still, he said, when it comes to allowing new lounge businesses, "the
benefits are obvious."

"When California made it legal to have recreational pot, it seemed to
me that pot was now no different than alcohol," he said.

In West Hollywood, residents overwhelming backed Proposition 64.
Eighty-three percent of voters approved recreational use -- one of the
highest margins in the state, city officials said.

Horvath, the councilwoman, said she views lounges as a way to show the
residents who didn't vote for legalization that marijuana can be used
safely and that it won't "have the devastating impact some might fear."

Lounges, she said, will allow people to use cannabis without bringing
it home or impacting their neighbors. The city's dispensaries agree.

Amy Pagel, manager of Zen Healing West Hollywood, said the dispensary
plans to apply for a permit and is leaning toward a license that would
allow smoking on the premises. West Hollywood dispensary MedMen also
said it plans to apply for a license.

Pagel said that if the shop's application is approved, it will build a
lounge that is "really classy" and fits in with West Hollywood's vibe.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt