Los Angeles lawmakers are laying the groundwork for what is widely expected to be one of the hottest markets for marijuana in the country, one that could bring more than $50 million in taxes to city coffers next year.
The city is drafting rules to allow greenhouses that grow cannabis, industrial facilities that process it, and new shops that sell it for recreational use, not just medical need.
But anyone expecting L.A. to become the next Amsterdam may be disappointed: It has held back, so far, on welcoming cafes or lounges where customers could smoke or consume cannabis.
That has troubled some marijuana advocates and attorneys, who warn that even after California legalizes the sale of recreational pot, many tourists and renters could be left without a safe, legal place to use it in Los Angeles.
Under draft regulations released earlier this year, it would be illegal for L.A. pot shops and other cannabis businesses to allow marijuana consumption on site.
It is also illegal, under state law, to consume it in a public place. And smoking pot will remain illegal anywhere that cigarette smoking is banned. At a recent city hearing, several speakers complained that could leave tourists and renters in the lurch.
The obvious place, for locals, would be at home. But while Californians can generally use marijuana on private property, renters may not be able to smoke it inside their apartments if their landlords forbid smoking of any kind. And some cannabis attorneys fear that zealous landlords could also target tenants for using marijuana if their leases prohibit illegal activity in their apartments.
The idea alarms critics of the marijuana industry, who argue that such venues would become a nuisance and drag down property values.
The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs argued that permitting marijuana to be consumed at businesses would ramp up the risk of intoxicated driving.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally agreed, saying it is difficult for police or users themselves to know if someone is too high to drive.
And UC San Francisco clinical professor of psychiatry Peter Banys argued that cities should hold off on allowing any “consumption cafes” until there is better research on intoxicated driving.