West Hollywood Exempts Cannabis from Smoking Ban in New Apartment Buildings


UPDATE August 17, 2020 –  Thanks to vocal protests by local cannabis advocates,  the West Hollywood city council voted 3-2 to drop cannabis from a proposed anti-smoking ordinance that  sought to ban smoking and vaping in  all new multi-family units.  John Duran led the pro-cannabis forces on the council, joined by council members Laurie Mesiter and John D’Amico, who had originally sponsored the ordinance.  The council vowed to keep studying the issue, possibly revisiting it in a years’ time. 

Cal NORML worked with local advocates, led by Jackie Subeck, Karen O’Keefe of MPP, LA NORML, and Legal Cannabis for Consumer Safety in organizing opposition to the ban.  Attorney and Prop 64 author Tamar Todd wrote a letter to the council explaining that local governments are NOT required to include cannabis in anti-smoking bans under Prop 64, and that Prop 215 protects the rights of medical patients to use cannabis privately, exposing the city to potential lawsuits. The city attorney concurred with Todd’s analysis that there is no language in Prop. 64 “requiring that cities treat cannabis and tobacco the same in determining where smoking is allowed and where smoking is prohibited.” Cal NORML presented scientific evidence that cannabis smoking  doesn’t cause lung cancer or other life-threatening diseases, and that no studies have shown second-hand marijuana smoking to be a meaningful public health hazard.   

Many thanks to the city of West Hollywood for upholding its reputation as a cannabis-friendly city.  May it serve as a precedent for other cities.

Cal NORML Alert – July 27, 2020

The City of West Hollywood is considering an anti-smoking ordinance at its August 3 meeting that, as currently written, would ban cannabis smoking and vaping in enclosed common areas and new units in multi-family dwellings – even for medical use.

The move is part of a troubling trend conflating cannabis with tobacco in state and local anti-smoking efforts.  A review of the scientific evidence shows that cannabis smoke and vaping are much safer than tobacco. Despite this, the California Department of Public Health and TobaccoFreeCA are promoting the notion that secondhand smoke from marijuana and vapes poses similar dangers to tobacco smoke. The anti-pot campaign is funded by the Prop. 99/Prop. 56 tobacco tax, which by voter mandate is supposed to be devoted to anti-tobacco efforts.

Unlike tobacco, cannabis has been found in numerous epidemiological studies not to cause lung cancer or cardiovascular disease, even when smoked firsthand.[i] Vaping has been shown to eliminate 95% – 99.99% of all smoke toxins, and it drastically reduces second-hand sidestream smoke. No harm has ever been detected from second-hand vaping, and an uptick in cigarette smoking has been seen as e-cigarettes are increasingly being regulated and taxed.

Unlike tobacco, cannabis is widely used for medicinal purposes. Inhalation is a much more effective way to administer cannabis for conditions requiring prompt treatment, such as seizures, migraine attacks and extreme nausea. The state of California has deemed cannabis “essential” during the COVID crisis.

While tobacco can legally be smoked outdoors, cannabis can’t be consumed legally in any public place; this is expressly forbidden in Prop. 64, which legalized cannabis for adult use in 2016. The pending measure would allow only the minority of West Hollywood residents wealthy enough to live in single-family homes to legally consume cannabis, medically or otherwise. This is directly contrary to West Hollywood’s values of equity and inclusion, and its historic strong support of AIDS patients and others in need of medical cannabis.

Cal NORML urges West Hollywood residents to call the city council at (323) 848-6460 or write their councilmembers and tell them to remove all mentions of marijuana or cannabis from the proposed ordinance. Residents are also encouraged to call into the City Council Zoom meeting starting  after 5:30 PM on Monday, August 3. See link for instructions.


[i] The largest case-controlled study ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking reported that cannabis use was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among heavy smokers (Tashkin DP, Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung, Annals of the American Thoracic Society (2013)).

The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, in its comprehensive 2017 review of cannabis science, found “no statistical association between cannabis use and incidence of lung cancer, or head and neck cancers,” (NAS report, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, 2017)

All Smoke Is Not Created Equal

Cannabis Exposure and Lung Health

Review: Cannabis Smoke Exposure Is “Distinct from Tobacco,” Not Associated with COPD or Lung Cancer

Study: Marijuana Smoke Exposure Not Linked To Poor Lung Health

Data regarding direct cannabis smoke exposure and cardiovascular risk are mixed, though an ongoing longitudinal study of healthy young/middle-age adults has consistently found no association between long-term cannabis exposure and adverse cardiovascular events. Also see:

Study: Marijuana Use History Not Independently Associated With Atherosclerosis

Study: Cannabis Use History Not Associated With Increased Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

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