Coming soon to West Hollywood: Pot consumption lounges

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- West Hollywood was the first city in Los Angeles County to allow the recreational sale of marijuana. And it could soon add another first: Amsterdam-style "coffee shops" or pot "consumption lounges."

"It's just like a bar where you purchase alcohol and you consume it on site -- the same applies to cannabis," said Jackie Rocco, West Hollywood's business development manager. While it has been legal to buy recreational marijuana since January, consuming it in most places isn't. "Just like you can't walk around the city consuming alcohol with an open container, the same applies to cannabis."

She says giving cannabis users a safe space to consume is a win-win.

"For us to have these types of spaces that are welcoming and safe and where people can come and enjoy the product will also create that kind of appeal for our city as a safe destination for cannabis consumption," said Rocco.

The city will start accepting applications for "consumption lounges" starting in May and plans to grant 16 permits -- eight that would allow for smoking, and eight that would be restricted to vaping and edibles.

There are currently four dispensaries in the city that can legally sell recreational marijuana. Zen West Hollywood is one of them. Manager Brandon Perrin said creating safe places for people to smoke is a no-brainer.

"There's so many dispensaries, and it's so easily accessible -- it's almost silly not to have a place where all like-minded people can enjoy flower," he said. Perrin says about 70 percent of the dispensary's customers are now tourists and he thinks pot lounges are the natural next step for the city.

"I believe it's going to be like a modern-day Amsterdam. People are going to come to West Hollywood to go to the shops, go to a lounge, spend a day cruising around," he said.

Lynette De La Cruz works in West Hollywood, and is all for the idea.

"I feel like it probably would be beneficial because then at least people wouldn't be outside on the streets smoking, driving or whatever, they'd have a designated area just like drinking," she said.

But not everyone is convinced. "I'm a Christian, so of course I don't think it would be good," said South Bay resident Nicole Baka. "It's just probably not a good influence, even for teens and younger kids. we want them to do other things instead of being excited about something like that," she added.

There will be a public meeting for questions related to the screening and application process on April 11 from 2-4 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vincente Blvd.
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