Vered Nisim wants to make West Hollywood the happiest place on Earth for pot smokers.
“The Disneyland of cannabis is what we are building,” said Nisim, who is in the process of opening Fire Lounge — a club where clientele can consume marijuana on site. “This is not for someone who just wants to smoke. This is about the experience from A to Z.”
West Hollywood is on board with that vision of a pot-smokers paradise — Fire Lounge is one of 16 consumption lounges that received permits last year from the city, which also approved licenses for both recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services.
Competition for the licenses was intense, with about 120 applicants vying for 36 permits. Candidates paid the city a $10,000 application fee, which netted West Hollywood $3 million as some applicants sought multiple permits.
For entrepreneurs like Nisim who plan on tapping into the burgeoning — and potentially lucrative — above-board cannabis industry, the application fee is a small portion of the upfront capital investment they’re committing. Nisim and her investors have sunk more than $3 million to renovate a two-story Sunset Boulevard storefront and have contacted hotels, tour companies and even Australia’s tourism board in an effort to market Fire Lounge to marijuana enthusiasts from around the world.
Nisim isn’t the only one to see this as the start of a West Coast Amsterdam. Several other companies have invested millions of dollars in high-end cannabis lounges, cafes and consumption locations along Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards, some with celebrity tie-ins. Several of the locations, including Fire Lounge, are expected to open by year’s end. Las Vegas-based Essence Cannabis Dispensary will open a boutique lounge and retail location later this year. And The Artist Tree plans a retail store for later this year, followed by a smoking lounge and restaurant debuting early next year.
The city, which plays host to tourists who contribute about $1.7 billion to the local economy, says it’s ready to be a marijuana mecca.
“We think this is going to be an important part of our tourism industry, especially since West Hollywood already has a pretty vibrant nightlife with bars, restaurants and entertainment facilities adjacent to many hotels,” said John Leonard, community and legislative affairs manager for the city. “We can become a unique destination for cannabis because of the quality of the establishments and their concentration.”
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