How This California City Plans to Become the ‘Amsterdam of the Far West’

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West Hollywood has always pushed the boundaries of fun. From the speakeasies during Prohibition to the rock clubs of the 1960s, the Sunset Strip, not to mention being a magnet for excess and debauchery, especially during Pride week and Halloween — it’s where you go to party in Los Angeles.

Now, like many cities around the country, it wants to be the place you go for weed. 

RELATED: As Americans Resume Travel, Cannabis Tourism Is Expected to Boom

Welcome to the Emerald Village

Already home to six dispensaries in its two square miles, the small city plans to approve as many as 40 cannabis permits in the next year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The expectation is that West Hollywood will be home to the most weed businesses per capita in the world — or at least on this side of the world. Operators want it to be known globally as a place for pot tourism, much like Amsterdam. There’s even a new moniker: The Emerald Village.

Having been first in many things cannabis — the first to sell medical marijuana during the AIDS epidemic; opening the first consumption lounge in the country — it’s already on its way.

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The celebrity factor helps

That first consumption lounge, which started as Lowell Farms-branded cafe and partner retail store but changed to a more generically named Cannabis Cafe, is temporarily closed. Thank the pandemic for that. But several more are on the horizon — many of which were supposed to be open by now. And this being a place known for celebrities, they come with some big names attached.

Actor Woody Harrelson and talk show host Bill Maher are backing a dispensary and lounge that’s currently under construction. And Patricia Arquette is reportedly an investor behind another cannabis lounge, which will also host events and gatherings, including those for the LGBTQ community. Celebrities are a dime a dozen in the industry now, but for West Hollywood, it’s close to home for many of them.

Retail-only concepts are already pulling in literally busloads of tourists, like Calma, which the Jay-Z-owned Parent Co. purchased. The Artist Tree is part weed store, part art gallery, and has a big draw; plans are in the works to add a patio lounge with a food and cannabis menu. Even West Hollywood’s MedMen outpost hopes to add a lounge in the future.

With cannabis businesses generating more than $2 million a year in tax revenue for WeHo, city officials are securely behind all of it, and West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister told the L.A. Times that there has been little to no opposition by residents. “We have always been a little edgy, and I think this fits in with our personality,” she said.

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