Weed Will Be Legal in L.A., but Renters and Tourists Will Have to Break the Law to Get Stoned
With strict rules about where cannabis can be consumed, and no social use lounges on the horizon, a huge portion of the city will be left without a proper place to consume their legalized herb.
Published on September 27, 2017

In California’s two decades with largely unregulated legal medical marijuana, Los Angeles has been by far the largest hub of cannabis confusion, with hundreds of unlicensed shops constantly being raided and re-opened, with little rhyme or reason keeping the tenuous industry together. However, with recreational legalization set to completely reshape the industry at the beginning of next year, the city is finally drafting concrete rules for the entire seed to sale process. But while dispensaries, grow houses and extraction facilities will finally have localized stamps of approval, the same cannot be said for social cannabis consumption lounges or clubs, an oversight that some advocates say undermines the entire industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, local and state regulations allow smoking, eating and vaping marijuana products on one’s own property, but for renters, tourists, and those with children or the elderly living in their homes, finding a place to legally and comfortably consume cannabis will be a challenge.

“It’s ridiculous that the city doesn’t consider that,” Bruce Margolin, executive director of NORML’s L.A. chapter and a practicing lawyer, told the Times. “The City Council is still treating marijuana users like criminals.”

Southland smokers will be forced to either overstep the bounds of their lease (most of which do not allow smoking or federally illegal substances) or smoke on the street, potentially facing the wrath of the LAPD, who will still be sanctioned to make arrests for public cannabis consumption. 

“Can’t smoke it outside. Can’t smoke it in a hotel. Can’t smoke it in a rental car,” George Boyadjian, president of cannabis education group 420 College, said about the expected flood of cannabis tourists to LA. “Where are these people supposed to use their cannabis?”

The problem isn’t new to Los Angeles, with tourists in Denver, Seattle and America’s other legal weed tourist hubs relying on cannabis-specific vacation packages, and bed and breakfasts where proprietors have specifically turned over their personal property for marijuana use. Denver is in the process of sorting out the social use issue, but so far, every state with recreational cannabis has run into the same smoking location difficulties. 

And while anyone that’s ever smoked out a hotel room or rental without consequence may be scoffing at usage laws in a state with widespread cannabis acceptance, the laws may be minor, but they still create serious problems for the country’s most marginalized cannabis consumers. For LA residents already facing rising rents, encroaching gentrification and ruthless landlords, marijuana use regulations become just another way to tighten the grip on the city’s longtime renters.

“It’s hard to say you can’t smoke in your home - especially for medical marijuana, where people have real needs - and yet we won’t let you smoke somewhere else,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, said. “Either people need to be able to smoke in their apartments or they need some other places set aside.”

West Hollywood is drafting rules to allow cannabis lounges down the line, but no specific plans for any city approved on-site consumption lounges have been made, despite language in the state regulations that allows local municipalities to set their own rules in creating consumption spaces attached to, but also separated, from dispensaries. 

On a larger scale, the question of 420-friendly spaces is still on the bottom of a long list of regulatory issues, with all indications suggesting that the city’s renters and tourists will be out of luck for the foreseeable future. 

“The full force of our attention is on creating the requirements for cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail businesses,” Caolinn Mejza, a spokeswoman for City Council President Herb Wesson, said in a written statement. “As time goes by we will deal with other issues and concerns.”

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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