Five hours into a marathon council meeting, following robust discussion among City Council members and some fine-tuning by the City Attorney, West Hollywood introduced its new cannabis ordinance on first reading. The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading on November 20, and if adopted, will become effective just in time for the State’s implementation of MAUCRSA in January. The original ordinance is available here, but the revised version has not yet been published.
West Hollywood’s cannabis ordinance creates five types of cannabis business licenses, implements a merit-based system to select the top operators, and limits the number of licenses in each category to eight (except for delivery services).
The Ordinance Allows Adult Use Retail, Medical Use Retail, On-Site Consumption, Delivery, Testing, Manufacturing, and Cultivation
The ordinance provides for the following licenses:
- up to 8 adult-use retail business licenses
- up to 8 consumption areas (smoking, vaping, ingestion) with on-site adult-use retail (sales of products to be consumed on-site) business licenses
- up to 8 consumption areas (edible ingestion only) with on-site adult-use retail (sales of products to be consumed on-site) business licenses
- up to 8 medical-use dispensary business licenses
- up to 8 business licenses for cannabis delivery services located in West Hollywood.
- an unlimited number of business licenses for cannabis delivery services that are located outside the City limits and deliver cannabis to customers within the City of West Hollywood.
In addition to these licenses, the ordinance allows the following uses without a separate cannabis business license:
- Testing laboratories
- Manufacturing and indoor commercial cultivation as ancillary uses to licensed retail use
A business may hold a combination of licenses, but may not obtain two of the same type of cannabis license within the City. West Hollywood expects most operators will obtain multiple licenses.
A City Manager-Appointed Committee Will Rank Applicants Based on Weighted Criteria
Following an initial 30-day application period, the City Manager-appointed evaluation committee, comprised of at least three people with demonstrated experience in city government or the cannabis industry and with no business interests in West Hollywood, will review and score each application based on the general criteria listed below.
The City has not yet determined the specific criteria or weighting of points per criteria for each license type, but it will do so prior to the initial application period and it will publicly post this information.
At present, there is no tiebreaking mechanism in the ordinance, so it remains to be seen how the City will select the top 8 applicants in a particular category if, for example, 15 applications end up with the same high score.
The following general criteria will be used to rank applicants:
- Previous adult-use retail, medical-use dispensing, or consumption area operation experience that was subject to state cannabis regulation, or experience in a similarly state-regulated activity (by way of example and not limitation, alcohol sales).
- Ability to demonstrate the quality of cannabis strains and derivative product offerings.
- Employee training, standard operating procedures, online ordering systems and procedures for providing cannabis to disadvantaged or disabled persons.
- Social equity in terms of provision of providing a living wage and employee benefits and compliance with local, state, and federal employee non-discrimination policies.
- Security program.
- Pre-existing West Hollywood Cannabis Business that has no outstanding code violations with the City and is in compliance with local and state laws.
- Ability to meet City of West Hollywood Urban Design Standards.
- Additional information that demonstrates the ability to operate in a safe and responsible manner in the City, including without limitation a review of the quality and thoroughness of application materials, connection to West Hollywood, ability to serve the West Hollywood community, familiarity with West Hollywood, and innovative boutique business models consistent with the West Hollywood community.
Four Existing Cannabis Collectives Are Entitled to Relocation, Temporary Licenses, and Exemption from Ranking
The ordinance provides substantial priority to the four authorized cannabis collectives currently operating in West Hollywood. During the hearing, City Council amended the ordinance to automatically grant existing businesses the first four available medical dispensary licenses, so long as they satisfy certain criteria.
If any of the existing four want to take advantage of priority without having to go through the ranking process, they cannot make a permanent change to adult use. In other words, an existing business would have to remain medical only, and/or obtain only a temporary license to engage in any adult use. An existing business wanting to take advantage of this priority would not be able to obtain a consumption license because those are only compatible with adult use retail. It appears an existing business could potentially add delivery services, so long as the delivery involved medical use products only.
However, even if one of the existing four decided to add adult use and forgo the priority license, the ranking criteria includes a category for existing collectives in good standing, meaning the existing businesses are entitled to additional points that a new business could not obtain. Accordingly, the existing businesses have a significant advantage in obtaining licenses.
The ordinance further provides that any of the existing four collectives that do not meet location requirements of local or state laws can move to a compliant location and be considered an “existing medical cannabis location.” An existing business may also obtain a temporary use permit in its original, non-compliant location if the State will issue a license for the location. This language appears directed at an existing collective located within 600 feet of a school.
Under the ordinance, existing businesses may immediately apply for a temporary and annual state license and local business license to operate medical and adult use retail. A temporary use permit may be issued to the existing four collectives to engage in the sale of adult use on a temporary basis provided that the operator receives and maintains a valid temporary license from the State.
Further Changes to the Original Ordinance Include Eliminating the Double Driver Requirement, Expanding Consumption Areas, and Limiting Operating Hours
In addition to the changes discussed above, the City eliminated the requirement that at least two employees be present in a delivery vehicle at all times, expanded the maximum consumption space from 25% to 50% of the total floor area of the retail space, and added language expressly reserving the authority of the Business License Commission to limit operating hours and to institute a closing time earlier than 2:00 a.m.
Orientation Meetings Next Week; Ordinance Scheduled to Take Effect Before January 1, 2018
The City invited interested parties to an orientation meeting next week to discuss the ordinance and answer questions about specific requirements and the application process. If the second reading and adoption proceed as expected on November 20, the ordinance will become effective before January 1, 2018.