Los Angeles County Issues Its First Cannabis License
October 26, 2017
Los Angeles County, CA
By Debra Borchardt, Contributor
Yvonne DeLaRosa Green was awarded the first cannabis business license for Los Angeles County for her dispensary 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu. The city and county of Los Angeles are expected to become the capital of cannabis once the state of California’s regulated adult-use market is up and running. While Denver, Colorado, may have grabbed all of the early attention, California’s market numbers will be hard to top.
There is a great deal of confusion over the cannabis licenses in the city versus the county. Los Angeles, the city, hasn’t issued any licenses, and it is rumored that existing dispensaries will have to close until they receive the new 2018 license under the new regulations. This could greatly affect existing businesses that would be forced to close with no idea of when or if they could open again.
Green said she was able to get her license from the county because in a small historical footnote, when Malibu became a city, it chose not to take over business licensing and left that up to the county. “Once I got my permit in Malibu, I had to explain to the county that they had to provide my business license,” she said. “They had to create the first license. I am the only person to have an LA County business license for cannabis.”
Keith Knox, chief deputy treasurer and tax collector for the county, confirmed that Los Angeles County administers some functions like business permits for three cities and Malibu is one of those three. However, Los Angeles County is banning marijuana for now, which makes the licensing in Malibu even more unique. Joseph Nicchitta, county coordinator for the Office of Marijuana Management, acknowledged the confusion. He said that under state law marijuana businesses need two licenses, one from the state and one for the local jurisdiction.
“It can be a little confusing and there are lots of other cities that are already moving forward. LA County though is prohibiting all businesses in the unincorporated areas,” he said. “You can be driving through the city of Los Angeles and drive through an unincorporated area. The color of the trash cans will tip you off.” Nicchitta confirmed that Green's license was the first that the county had issued under the new program.
The mayor's office in Malibu said in a statement: “The City of Malibu's Municipal Code allows for two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within City limits. Two medical marijuana dispensaries have been in operation in the City for several years. Los Angeles County issues business licenses on behalf of the City of Malibu, and approved a business license for one of the two existing medical marijuana dispensaries today.”
Green’s license is sure to cause a great deal of commotion as many businesses are angry that the city of Los Angeles hasn’t created a smooth transition plan for existing businesses. Another person familiar with the situation said it wasn’t a cannabis license per se but instead characterized it as the first business license that recognizes a dispensary to pay taxes to L.A. County. However, it seems everyone else in the county offices agree Green's license allows her to operate in 2018 under the new regulations.
Green is a longtime activist that got involved with the industry after meeting the late Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. The book established Herer as an early marijuana legalization advocate due to his exhaustive investigation into marijuana history and legislation. Green then became very involved with medical marijuana when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was disappointed with the dispensaries that were available at the time. This led her to create 99 High Art Collective in Venice Beach California, where she combined a dispensary with an art gallery, essentially creating the concept of an upscale dispensary. She closed that location in 2012.
99 High Tide Collective is Green’s Malibu location, which she opened in 2015 and it has been recognized as one of the best dispensaries by Rolling Stone. She has also established 99 as a great brand for women and a place for sophisticated cannabis patients. It took Green two and half years to get through the process. “We’re very fortunate that Malibu is its own city and not under the LA regulations.”
In addition to being an ganjapreneur, Green is an actress that has appeared in television shows like How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, The King of Queens and yes, Weeds. She has several film credits and was called the “face of the new wave of Latino talent” by actor Jimmy Smits. As to the health of her mother? She's alive and well and Green believes it was the medical marijuana that has helped her to be able to live today.