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Prospective Applicants for WeHo Cannabis Licenses Are Hiring Lobbyists and Donating to a Councilmember’s Charity

The City of West Hollywood is putting into place a system to ensure an objective evaluation of applications for each of the 40 cannabis-related business licenses that it will be issuing later this year.

However, some applicants for a cannabis license may hope they can gain influence over City Hall or City Council members to help them. To date, three individuals or businesses interested in obtaining a cannabis license have engaged lobbyists, whose job is to advise their clients on navigating government bureaucracy and advocating for them before elected and appointed government officials. And three cannabis firms have made  donations to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit chaired by Councilmember John Duran that gets major financial support from lobbyists and businesses with contracts with the City of West Hollywood or that have issues before the City Council.

Integral Associates, a cannabis firm based in Las Vegas, has engaged Afriat Consulting Group, one of the most prominent lobbying firms in Los Angeles. In a required filing with the City Clerk, Afriat says it has been engaged to “assist client with procurement of permits so client can open a business in the City of West Hollywood.”

Essence Cannabis Dispensary, which operates from the same address in Las Vegas as Integral Associates, has engaged Collaborate Inc., a firm run by Tracey Chavira and Katherine Hennigan Ohanesian, as a lobbyist. In its filing with the city, Collaborate lists Essence as its only WeHo client.

Sam Borelli, a local business consultant, has been hired by David Dickerson, one of the owners of Kitchen 24 restaurant, to help secure a cannabis business license.

MedMen, which operates one of four licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in WeHo and has been granted temporary permission to sell recreational cannabis, is not listed as the client of a lobbyist. However, it is listed as a “bronze sponsor” of the Gay Men’s Chorus’s upcoming Voice Awards. Bronze sponsors are required to donate $4,000 to GMCLA. Another bronze sponsor is Essence Dispensaries.

Alternative Herbal Health Services, another of the four currently licensed medical dispensaries, which is run by Jason Beck, is a “silver” sponsor of the Voice Awards, which requires a donation of $6,000

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Published: April 26, 2018

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