First reported by the Los Angeles Times, the geographically small city of West Hollywood plans to rebrand itself as a cannabis mecca, or as “Emerald Village”—a name coined by a cannabis trade group of the same name. At less than two square miles in size, the city is packing in cannabis businesses, and could reinvent itself as the “Amsterdam of the far West.”
“Welcome to the Emerald Village, the capital of cannabis culture,” the organization says on its website. “We invite you to explore all the gems West Hollywood has to offer in this golden age of cannabis including culinary, wellness, entertainment, nightlife, art and personalized experiences.” Emerald Village calls itself the “official marketing organization for licensed cannabis businesses in West Hollywood.”
West Hollywood is currently home to just six dispensaries, but city officials plan to approve as many as 40 cannabis permits over the course of the next year.
West Hollywood is already home to one cannabis retailer for every 5,959 residents—a much higher concentration of cannabis businesses than even Los Angeles. West Hollywood Community and Legislative Affairs Manager John Leonard told Los Angeles Times that the city received over 300 applications for just eight licenses to operate dispensaries in 2018.
It would be a rebrand from West Hollywood’s current status as the LGBTQ “main street” of Los Angeles—with over 21 gay bars on Santa Monica Blvd alone. But the city’s high focus on retail is ideal for cannabis brands as well.
Current member organizations of Emerald Village West Hollywood include Alternative Herbal Health Services (AHHS), The Artist Tree, CALMA, LA Patients and Caregivers Group (LAPCG), MedMen and Zen Healing Collective.
“I really see it as a place that can redefine what the image of cannabis is to the general public,” Kelly Lyon, of The Artist Tree told CBS News. “It would be awesome to be able to have a business where you can appreciate art. If yoga is more your thing, you can walk down the street and do that while you consume and everyone is sort of bringing a different idea to the table.”
It makes sense—considering that West Hollywood is already a pioneer in cannabis culture. A few years ago, Lowell Farms opened what it called “America’s first cannabis restaurant,” a café serving cannabis-infused foods.
“From the first cannabis café in the United States to entertainment and art venues enhanced by cannabis, West Hollywood’s Emerald Village is home to the most unique and creative cannabis experiences in the world,” Scott Schmidt, Emerald Village Executive Director told WeHoville. “The Emerald Village is ready to welcome travelers who will appreciate our imaginative cannabis experiences alongside our iconic LGBT nightlife, entertainment, world-class hotels, award-winning restaurants and strong sense of community.”
The development is being driven in part by celebrities. The Parent Company—Jay-Z’s massive cannabis enterprise—recently purchased the female-run CALMA, a West Hollywood dispensary according to an October 4 press release. Patricia Arquette plans to open an edible lounge in the Flaming Saddles building—the same building where Prince recorded “Purple Rain.”
Woody Harrelson launched numerous attempts to become involved with cannabis businesses in West Hollywood, getting denied a dispensary permit in 2016. Bill Maher is also getting involved in the business plans.
Clothing and fashion stores are also getting involved. Fred Segal’s flagship Sunset location, which sits on the West Hollywood-Los Angeles border area, hosted a cannabis pop-up that drew The Freak Brothers cast Pete Davidson, Blake Anderson, John Goodman, Andrea Savage, Phil LaMarr and Danny Gendron.