WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The first person to purchase cannabis in Los Angeles County without a medical card was a California politician, but he wasn’t from Los Angeles. Francisco Ramirez is a city councilman from the city of Hanford in Kings County. He did the honors shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday inside Alternative Herbal Health Services on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, where he purchased a sealed bag containing an eighth of Damien Marley’s newest strain: Speak Life OG, cultivated by Ocean Growers.
Ramirez traveled the 230 miles south from Hanford, a city of 55,000 in the south-central San Juaquin Valley, to experience ‘LA’s First Wake-n-Bake.” He proudly held up the opaque bag, which he had bought not for himself, he said, but for a veteran buddy struggling with opioid addiction. Bringing attention to problems like was why he had traveled south to be the County’s first legal purchaser of non-medical weed.
“To make a statement,” he said. “I truly believe that adult use can spur more research and development for medical cannabis. I have veterans calling me and asking me how they can get access to cannabis without being subject to VA [rules] that if they get tested for cannabis, they can be denied [benefits]. I think that’s a major hurdle we are facing and why I am out there supporting them.”
About the cannabis situation in the Hanford area, he said, “We are not going to have any dispensaries, but if everything works out, we will have a million square feet of cannabis being grown at a grow facility.” In fact, he added, cultivation and manufacturing, though not retail or delivery, have already been approved by the city.
Not surprisingly, interest in cultivation in the area is “hot,” especially in Coalinga and Hanford. Ramirez admitted, “Hanford looked at Coalinga, and we just said, ‘If Coalinga is going to do it, we might as well get on it. When it comes down to it, we’re looking at the financial benefit to the community, for the citizens, in the form of job creation. Starting pay [for cannabis workers] is $17.50 an hour. We’re looking initially to add 650 jobs.”
Ramirez said the area is conservative and the battle to accept cannabis in the community and the council is not easy, but he nonetheless expressed support for the patchwork rollout of cannabis reform throughout the state. “I think it’s good, because it’s less [state] government oversight.”
About his purchase that morning, he added, “It means a lot to me. The veteran who I bought it for needs it, but the problem is that he has to use it 29 days prior to being tested by the VA, or he loses his benefits.”
Ramirez had one other issue of concern he wanted to mention. “One regulatory system that really makes me upset is when a child has seizures, and the parents are trying to get them cannabinoids, and [child protective services] gets involved. They’re good parents, and yet they’re demonized for giving their kids this medicine. We need to bring more awareness to that.”
Ramirez has one hurdle he needs to get past before focusing on these issues. He is the subject of a recall election later this month, the result, he claims are the result of him not being “a part of the good old boys club.”
Jason Beck operates the venerable AhhsWeho dispensary along with the equally famous Dr. Dina, whose latest claim to fame is as the inspiration for the Netflix series, Disjointed, for which she also serves as a “cannabis consultant.” Busy overseeing the morning business, greeting customers, giving interviews, taking calls, Beck, a longtime industry activist, was in the zone.
“It’s something I think a lot of us have been waiting for our entire adult lives,” he said of the moment. “And I feel blessed to be able to be the first person to sell adult use cannabis to an actual end-user, much less an elected official, here in the city of West Hollywood.
“It was amazing,” he said of the 6am opening. “There were actually people here at 5:45am, just waiting for that moment. We started forming a line in the waiting area, and by the time it was six, we had about 10 or 15 people waiting in line.”
How does he feel now? “The world has changed. The day that L.A.—being the economic powerhouse that it is—embraces cannabis in this way, it really makes the world change at that point.”