Opinion Sunday: Uphold the Cannabis Buffer Map, Maintain our Integrity

Adult-use Retailers Association urges City Council not to re-write the rules for individual businesses

Dear Mayor Horvath and Members of the City Council,

On behalf of the Adult Use Retailers Association of West Hollywood (AURA), I urge you to protect the integrity of your City Cannabis Licensing process and reject privately-made, inappropriate revisions to the publicly-distributed Cannabis Sensitive Use Buffer Map.

Item 5.B should not be used to amend the “Cannabis Regulations 600-foot Buffer Map” (Cannabis Map) after staff has determined the eligibility of specific properties for cannabis businesses in the Rainbow Entertainment District on Santa Monica Boulevard based on this map, for several years.

While the staff report suggests this Cannabis Map was “only a reference document,” the map was publicly relied upon and presented as an official City document with no disclaimers during City Hearings. City officials and cannabis applicants both used this Cannabis Map to make business decisions.

– The Map was provided to City Council when considering the language when adopting the Cannabis Ordinance and was still published by the City when the Council twice amended the ordinance in 2018 and 2020.

– The Map was provided to the Business License Commission at more than a dozen public hearings as authoritative. The Map was presented in staff reports at eight separate hearings in 2021 alone.

– The map was relied upon by 20+ Cannabis License Application winners to select a business location; twelve of which have already gone through the Business License Commission process, where the same map was displayed as a staff report exhibit.

– The “Guide to the Cannabis Regulations 600 Foot Map” published by the City in conjunction with the Cannabis Map states authoritatively that, “Properties within this buffer are highlighted in yellow and are in eligible (sic) to receive a Cannabis license,” and, “You may dispute the City’s findings by hiring a licensed surveyor to provide additional evidence.”

Based off this map, the public’s understanding, and the understanding of the City Council when they passed the ordinance, was that the entirety of West Hollywood Park, Plummer and Poinsettia Parks were considered to be sensitive uses. Were they not, the Council may have decided to designate them as such when adopting or subsequently amending the ordinance.

Indeed, when our members negotiated a binding legal settlement agreement with the City in August 2020, the possibility of amending the Cannabis Map was discussed and rejected.

As a matter of fairness, it is important that all Cannabis Business license applicants be treated equitably and under the same rules, and if those rules are to change, there needs to be a public process and all businesses should be notified of any changes immediately. This did not happen.

Rather, as staff admits in their agenda item, City PDS staff continued to issue zone clearances and publicly rely on the Cannabis Map in question for several business license hearings while at the same time privately approving a new interpretation and map amendment for Fantom Flower at 8811 Santa Monica Boulevard.

In his correspondence on this Item, Oren Bitan from Buchalter states that the applicant known as Fantom Flower received approval for the location at 8811 Santa Monica Boulevard within the Buffer Zone on the Cannabis Map prior to entering into negotiations for a lease on the property. That lease was signed on November 1, 2020, and according to local news reports, negotiations for the lease began as early as June or July 2020.

At no point between November 1, 2020 and June 28, 2021 did City Staff inform other Cannabis Business License Applicants of the Cannabis Map amendment based on a new interpretation of sensitive uses at West Hollywood Park.

In fact, City staff continued to present the Cannabis Map in whole or in part, as binding and authoritative at Business License Commission hearings for Greenwolf, Door Number 6, Zen Healing, Farmacy Collective, AHHS, LAPCG, and Budberry/Monica’s House as late as June 28, 2021. At least three of these businesses could have chosen a different location on Santa Monica Boulevard had City Staff’s private and novel interpretation of sensitive use at West Hollywood Park been properly disclosed to the public.

To apply a new interpretation and amend the Map now, after the Cannabis Map has been used as authoritative for years and a majority of cannabis licensees have chosen alternative locations based on that Map would constitute a gross injustice and potential cause for litigation.

The Council can preserve the Public’s trust and maintain the integrity of the City’s Cannabis Licensing process by rejecting any privately-made, novel, staff-level interpretations of sensitive uses at West Hollywood Park. The Council must stand for consistency and fairness by denying this amendment to a Cannabis Map that has been relied on by this City Council, the City Business License Commission and all Cannabis Business License Applicants.

Therefore, we ask the Council to reject the staff recommendation on Item 5B and instruct staff to update the Municipal Code to include the entirety of West Hollywood, Plummer and Poinsettia Parks as sensitive uses so that the Municipal Code definitively reflects the Cannabis Map in the future.

Thank you,

Erron Silverstein
Chairman of the Board
Adult Use Retailers Association of West Hollywood

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Dan
Dan
1 month ago

I really don’t see your point- Are you suggesting a competing business is at fault for a day care center being moved / torn down and its no longer sensitive use? Doesn’t seem very logical.

M.Ch
M.Ch
1 month ago

So this anger derives from the fact that the building is nowhere near a
“sensitive use area” and is in no conflict with the ordinance.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  M.Ch

It is.

MGJ
MGJ
1 month ago

I could understand why FF competitors would be disappointed in this decision, but to me, this article reads as an attempt to not compete with others in the market. I don’t know or need to know the details of what efforts Fantom Flower has taken to been awarded a license at this location. The way I see it, is if they are the first ones to do this successfully, then they have opened the door for others to do the same. Why try to break them down before they even get started? If they are successful, profitable, and build a… Read more »

Marcusb
Marcusb
1 month ago

Written by AURA’s board Chairman… Trying to put the squeeze on competition. GROSS.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Marcusb

Totally missed or didn’t understand his points.

J. Braun
J. Braun
1 month ago

The last thing this industry—or America for that matter—needs right now is more governmental overreach to stymie growth and innovation. It’s obvious that big money group AURA is acting out of self-interest here to crush the competition and it’s a shame they’ve been given a platform in this publication to do so.

Ron Baldwin
Ron Baldwin
1 month ago

Strange argument …it feels very much like an effort to use a false narrative about what constitutes “sensitive use” or the binding nature of the buffer map as a means to keep out legitimate competition.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Baldwin

This “narrative” was developed 4 years ago by the city council and has been in you since then.

Bob Thomson
Bob Thomson
1 month ago

I have followed these BLC hearings. Funny how AURA tried to torpedo all other cannabis businesses. There’s always some last minute letter from AURA with questionable content masquerading as truth.

Bobby C
Bobby C
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob Thomson

AURA has attacked every one of its competing businesses. This is ridiculous.
The revenue to weho far exceeds any of this nonsense. There are much more pressing needs in Weho ie helping the thousands of homeless.

Peter Conti
Peter Conti
1 month ago

Stop this insanity, maps change all the time. The day care center building is no longer there. Therefore it is no longer sensitive use. Stop attacking all your competitors. The ordinance is the ordinance. Parks are not sensitive use. If you want to make a park sensitive use, you’re going to have to make all WeHo parks sensitive use. That would upend 1/2 a dozen cannabis businesses.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Conti

Parks were designated a sensitive area due to the fact that children are at play there.

Jason Solis
Jason Solis
1 month ago

Seems like it’s important to point out that this piece was written by AURA’s board Chairman and Aura also paid to advertise at the bottom of this page. Was this article just paid content by AURA in an effort to squeeze out their competitors?

Larry Block
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason Solis

Fathom Flower was asked to write an op-ed and declined. They didn’t have much to add to the conversation. You might note this happened to them twice now with the same landlord. They know what the map was during the application process, and after.

Voter
Voter
1 month ago

Bait and Switch again. Money under the table at City Hall plain and simple. They took the money and ran.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Voter

Yep, it’s not up to staff to alter the map.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

This is a well reasoned chronicle as to why the City Council should reject staff’s efforts to undermine the current cannabis buffer map. There are troubling questions regarding this process, not the least of which is that staff seems to have given an approval for this site nearly a year ago, before the applicant entered into its’ lease for the Flaming Saddles site without apparently consulting the City’s map. The public is left to determine if this was just an issue of incompetence on the part of staff or if the applicant was being given preferential treatment. Either way the… Read more »

Credibility
Credibility
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Staff giving preferential treatment to applicants is not limited to only this case. It can be artfully accomplished.

Ryan Touche
Ryan Touche
1 month ago

A park is not a sensitive use the applicant does not fall within 600 feet of a sensitive use, the Maps provided in the public comment show proof that the space in question was never within a sensitive use nor changed by the city to accommodate.

-Ryan

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Touche

But Staff always enforced the Map as drafted until now. The City Council adopted the map as it exists; if it decides to change the Map it runs the risk of being sued by prior applicants or landlords were the applications were rejected based upon this very map. I think the public might disagree as to whether a park is a “sensitive use” but that is a different argument for another day.

Dominic Baty Bonanno
Dominic Baty Bonanno
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I live in WEHO. I find it a damn shame that we r always screaming about being inclusionary and yet these actions r so far left of that action. I personally think the business will be viable as well as a great benefit to the city and its natives. Lets STOP with the mean talk and let us vote YES on 5B.

Ryan Touche
Ryan Touche
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Other applicants some that are members of aura are within 600 feet of a park, if we’re going to make park a sensitive use those initial applicant’s would be grandfathered in as well as fantom flower due to the city providing a zone clearance.

-Ryan

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Touche

Which businesses and which sensitive areas are your referring to? Give specifics.

JJ1
JJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Yup.

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