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West Hollywood, the famously progressive, LGBTQ-friendly California city, has launched a "weed-positive" public service campaign to gently remind residents and visitors about the laws governing recreational cannabis consumption.

Called "Weed Like You to Know," the clever awareness campaign is part spoof, part gentle reminder that although adult-use cannabis is legal in California, marijuana can be consumed only at appropriate locations. The city rolled out the campaign at 4:20 p.m. on April 20, 2019, with postcards, ads, and a WeHoTV public service announcement titled “Recreational Reefer Madness” — a campy parody of the old fearmongering movie — that makes tongue-in-cheek statements including, “We're not saying that if you consume your recreational marijuana in public that you definitely will die in a fiery explosion — but do you really want to take that risk?”

Wedged between Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, West Hollywood has long taken the lead on issues such as LGBTQ rights, gun control, and environmental protections. In December 2018, it also took the lead in approving social cannabis use when it issued 16 cannabis lounge licenses — eight for edibles-only consumption, and eight for smoking, vaping, or eating weed. The lounges are anticipated to open sometime in 2019.

What's Behind The Campaign?

After January 1, 2018, when dispensaries were allowed to sell adult-use cannabis, West Hollywood officials began receiving complaints about unpermitted public consumption. “Particularly, some local businesses were having difficulties with individuals smoking cannabis on their patios, with the belief that it was legal to do so,” said John Leonard, West Hollywood's Community and Legislative Affairs Manager.

A public service announcement image from West Hollywood, California's, "Weed Like You To Know" campaign advises residents and visitors where they are allowed to consume cannabis products. (Image courtesy of West Hollywood)

With input from local business owners, the city launched the campaign to educate individuals about where they can and cannot legally consume marijuana. "Weed Like You To Know" also provides educational materials to local businesses and dispensaries that highlights the city's support of legal cannabis consumption and further clarification on consumption laws.

Who Needs to Know?

Leonard said city officials hope the campaign will not only support businesses, but also aid in compliance with the laws. “We will be particularly successful if businesses are able to use the materials to help educate individuals about where they can use cannabis,” Leonard said.

Exhale Med Center budtender and delivery driver Bobby Portillo said that some neighbors of West Hollywood dispensaries aren't happy with increased foot traffic on their streets, along with empty weed containers and joint roaches littering lawns and driveways. “Even though cannabis is now legal for the 21+ crowd, it still isn't like drinking a beer on the patio of the Rainbow,” Portillo said of the legendary Sunset Strip nightclub.

What Does Legal Weed Look Like In WeHo?

A popular tourist destination known for the Sunset Strip, West Hollywood is packed with restaurants, bars, hotels and thousands of visitors who patronize them, especially on weekends. For tourists, cannabis consumption can be tricky; though anyone who can verify that they're 21 or older can buy marijuana products at a store such as AHHS WeHo or Zen Healing, finding a spot to legally consume the purchase is tougher. Eating an edible in the privacy of your hotel room is allowed, but if you prefer smoking or vaping, the law is much more difficult. West Hollywood has one of the strictest anti-smoking ordinances in the U.S.

The licensed consumption lounges, which are anticipated to open in West Hollywood in late 2019, will offer tourists the opportunity to safely smoke, vape or eat cannabis onsite.

Exhale Med Center is one of the licensed recreational cannabis dispensaries in West Hollywood, California. (Photo courtesy of Exhale Med Center)

“We'd like to be a destination for cannabis tourism … we want our cannabis businesses to be interesting and unique, attracting people who will go on to visit our restaurants, bars, and stores,” Leonard told Weedmaps News when announcing the recipients of the lounge licenses.

In the meantime, Leonard said the city hopes that cannabis consumers will take note of the "Weed Like You To Know" campaign, which according to him has “the full support of the cannabis community.”

West Hollywood Weed 101

If you visit or live in West Hollywood, know that consuming cannabis in public and at bars and restaurants is not allowed. Consumption is permitted only at appropriate locations, which include private residences or the soon-to-open licensed lounges. "Weed Like You To Know" lays out the following details:  

  • Cannabis consumption: Cannabis consumption includes smoking, vaping, and eating edibles.
  • Cannabis and alcohol: By California law, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol cannot also allow cannabis consumption.
  • Smoking patios: Business patios that allow smoking can allow smoking only of tobacco.
  • Cannabis edibles and smoking: In businesses open to the public, edibles and items can be consumed or smoked only in the city's licensed cannabis consumption lounges.

Featured Image: West Hollywood, California, made “Recreational Reefer Madness,” a spoof of the propaganda film-turned-stoner cult classic, for its "Weed Like You to Know" public service announcement campaign. The video is available on YouTube. (Courtesy of West Hollywood)

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