Recreational marijuana may be legal, but you won’t find it in a store near you
By Gary Walker
Despite the fanfare about recreational marijuana becoming legal in California on New Year’s Day, it could be a while before Westsiders can just walk into a nearby store and buy some. California residents 21 and older can grow up to six plants in their home and possess as much as an ounce of marijuana for personal use, but L.A. isn’t nearly as hip to weed as you’d think.
Los Angeles city leaders have yet to issue rules to implement the legal sale of recreational marijuana, with The Argonaut unable to reach the new Department of Cannabis Regulation but its website (cannabis.lacity.org) stating that many existing medical marijuana dispensaries will “quickly receive” recreational sales licenses.
L.A. County has yet to decide what will happen in unincorporated areas such as Marina del Rey, leaving a total ban on retail sales intact for now. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is tentatively slated to discuss permanent regulations at its Jan. 23 meeting, more than a year and two months after voters weighed in on the issue.
Santa Monica officials have also been slow and cautious — so much so that they are just gearing up to allow for medical marijuana dispensaries, which became legal in California under Gov. Gray Davis.
In October, the Santa Monica City Council greenlighted an application process for up to two medical marijuana retailers in any of three areas: Wilshire Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and Centinela Avenue; Santa Monica Boulevard between Lincoln and 20th Street, and Santa Monica Boulevard between 23rd Street and Centinela. The city is taking applications through Feb. 28.
New zoning rules will allow for light manufacturing of medicinal products like cannabis-based lotions or edibles without a retail storefront, but commercial recreational activities are postponed pending “a community process to evaluate “what types of adult-use commercial activities should be allowed and where,” according to a city press release issued Jan. 3.
Things played out differently in West Hollywood, where city officials gave the MedMen medical marijuana dispensary approval to begin recreational sales Jan. 1 — which it did, prompting lines around the block.
“It was a celebratory day for us. We didn’t expect it,” said MedMen spokesman Daniel Li. “While everyone was drinking champagne and waiting for 2018 to start, our employees were clearing out products in the stores in preparation for new regulations.”
According to Li, the Santa Monica Boulevard retailer saw a 30% spike in sales on Jan. 1.
MedMen operates medical marijuana dispensaries west of the 405 Freeway awaiting L.A. city approvals for recreational sales: MedMen Venice at 410 Lincoln Blvd. and MedMen LAX at 8740 Sepulveda Blvd. in Westchester.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are beginning to mix cannabis with gourmet meals and social outings despite the hazy legality of it all. Public consumption remains illegal, but on-site consumption inside designated businesses is a very real possibility.
“Under state law, local jurisdictions can allow consumption on the grounds of a licensed and permitted retailer provided the area is restricted to people 21 and over, the area where cannabis is consumed is separated from the retail area, and alcohol and tobacco cannot be sold onsite,” said Joseph Nicchitta, countywide coordinator of the Office of Marijuana Management, L.A. County’s new regulatory body.