L.A. Gets an Earful in First Public Hearing on Cannabis Draft Regulations

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LOS ANGELES – Apparently, the city did not expect a lot of people to show up Thursday morning for a Department of City Planning public hearing on the recently issued draft ordinance on land use and sensitive use requirements for cannabis businesses within city boundaries. But this was also the first opportunity for members of the industry (and public) to tell the city in person what they think about its draft regulations, and they did not waste the opportunity.

The hearing, scheduled to start at 10 a.m., was put in a normal-sized hearing room that quickly filled, forcing latecomers into a second room where they could sit or stand as audio was piped in via a single, small speaker. Anyone who wanted could fill out a card and wait to be called in to make a public statement. In all, over 60 people addressed the Planning Department staff of three. Several people commented on land use subjects—such as the choice to have cannabis businesses stay 800 feet instead of 600 feet away from schools, parks, libraries, and treatment facilities—but most of the speakers addressed the city’s decision to issue Certificates of Compliance rather than business licenses. If anything struck a nerve with every member of the industry, that was it.


Ruben Honig, executive director of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, was the first speaker. “All this draft contemplates is a Certificate of Compliance with limited immunity,” he said. “It’s time that this city stops treating this industry like criminals. We are citizens, we are human beings, and we deserve the same rights as all workers. What you are doing is just perpetuating the same problems that you have with Proposition D, and you are going to have the same public safety issues… We want business licenses. We don’t want certificates of compliance.” Other members of the Task Force spoke during the session, including founder Ariel Clark.

Several members of the Southern California Coalition also took to the mic, including cultivator Eric Hultstrom, who respectfully warned the city, “Looking at this draft, if your intention is to not have a cannabis industry in Los Angeles—congratulations, it looks terrific. This industry has the potential to create a boon of manufacturing and living wage jobs in this city. As it is, with this, you’re going to drive away the businesses you want to have participate in this market, and all you’re going to have left is a black-market industry you don’t want.

“Without having a good, solid, regulated industry,” continued Hultstrom, “there will be no hope of survival for this industry in Los Angeles, and those dollars are going to go to all the other cities that decided they want these jobs and businesses. Good, ethical businesspeople cannot continue to operate in an environment where they are constantly worried about getting raided. The people we represent are looking to move out of the city because our membership has been undergoing constant raids. These are model businesses you want in the state, and we really hope you will fight to keep these businesses here. Thank you.”

It went like that throughout the session, but not all speakers were from or in support of the industry, including a handful of people who said they lived in areas with cannabis dispensaries and wanted the city to keep the 800-foot restricted zone, and for places of worship to be added back to the list of locations subject to the zoning.

The first of perhaps a dozen hearings the city will hold on its draft regulations, Thursday was just a taste of what the city can expect from the industry going forward. Department of City Planning staffers attended this one. In future hearings, city council members will undoubtedly have to face the wrath of a monster of their own making—an industry that may have finally coalesced into a single, powerful entity the city ignores at its peril.