Legally Lit in Long Beach

STORY BY: DIEGO GOMEZ

PHOTOS BY: DIEGO GOMEZ & DUSTIN STRONG

Adam Hijazi never realized how much he has in common with legendary hip-hop rapper Snoop Dogg. Both are successful Long Beach visionaries and both tell us to “Smoke Weed Everyday.”

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Although Hijazi is not a musical artist, he has always persevered to legally bring medical cannabis to his community and is now the co-owner of the Long Beach Green Room.

On September 23, 2017, the Long Beach Green Room officially reopened and became the first licensed marijuana dispensary in the city.

“We are thrilled and ecstatic to be open back again,” Hijazi said.

“It feels amazing to be the first. The best way to understand the issues with cannabis is through education. We wanted to give a dispensary everyone would like to have around his or her neighborhood. We love the opportunity and the confidence from the city. It is a responsibility for us. We plan on keeping a good operation here. Our patients - it’s what it is all about. We want to be here for them.”

First established in 2010, The LB Green Room was one of the first legal connectives in Long Beach. Although it was operating under every required guideline, in 2012 the city government decided to ban the shop. Although his business closed down, Hijazi did not stop there. He was appointed to the City Task Force by City Council and helped with planning commission meetings to advise and establish policy in order to legally bring marijuana back to Long Beach.

The LB Green Room temporarily turned into a campaign election center where people registered to vote and united 100,000 signatures to start the 2016 ballot initiative that allowed the Green Room to reopen and other weed dispensaries to open in the future.

As a facility, the LB Green Room works with a wide range of cannabis products such flowers, oils, edibles and drinks. Being an advocate of legally bringing medical marijuana to Long Beach fills Hijazi´s heart with joy. However, how was the LB Green Room able to open months ahead of other businesses?

Hijazi says they grinded to be one step ahead of the game.

“We are passionate,” he said. “We are passionate about our business. We are passionate about our city, about safe access. We are in this for the right reasons. We just work harder for it. We feel a sense of satisfaction for what we are doing, so we work night and day. If it was something, it was our drive for the industry and for bringing safe access back to Long Beach.”

Hijazi says he also feels the 2012 ban of his business was unjust and that the reopening process was tough.

“It was not fair,” he said. “If you look back, it was not the best decision. But, at that time it is what it is. It was not easy to reopen, there is a lot of requirements. Everybody used our dispensary as guinea pigs that way they would create the path for other businesses being licensed. Today we are in a different world than years ago.”

On November 8, 2016, voters in California approved the Adult Use of Medical Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64. This allowed adults 21 years or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of concentrated cannabis and grow up to six plants per home. On January 1, 2018, licenses will be distributed for every type of marijuana business for medical marijuana cultivators. The Long Beach Marijuana Taxation Measure, known as Measure MA, and the Regulation of Medical Marijuana Businesses, known as Measure MM, were also approved by 60 percent of voters.

This placed everything in play to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years or older. Long Beach, however, still needs local jurisdiction approval to decide whether recreational marijuana businesses will ever exist legally.

On November 14, 2017, the Long Beach City Council announced there will be a temporary ban on adult recreational marijuana use. Although medical sales will continue, the city staff brought forward a set of criteria by which they should implement an ordinance that will allow co-location of medical and recreational sales.

Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo led the City Council effort to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach more than a year ago. However, Measure MM overrode the Council's decision and effectively allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate under established the rules.

Mungo says she is not in favor of marijuana but fully supports the voters’ decisions.

“I have serious concerns of the use of marijuana by young people,” she said. “Any substance that is altering can provide issues. As an adult, you have the freedom to choose how to spend your money and take your risks. The vote from the election demonstrated that voters are in favor of recreational use being legal. As their elective representative, I support their will.”

Mungo says she believes federal law should be aligned with local law.

“I believe in people´s personal right to have as little restriction from government and freedom of will,” she said. “However, currently federal law does not condone the use or sale of marijuana, so I have an internal conflict as a peace officer. Until it is legal at a federal level, I have a personal conflict that our local laws are in conflict with the federal laws.”

Hijazi acknowledges the importance of laws and regulations. He says he wants a regulated market for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

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“Medical marijuana should always 100 percent be legal always,” he said. “Regarding recreational, I strongly believe in regulation against not regulation. Even whether you agree with herb or not, it is always better to have a regulated market than an unregulated market. I support regulated recreational marijuana; making sure the product is clean and good quality is being given. The importance in the recreational part of cannabis is to do it safely and responsibly. There are laws that protect the public and we ask people to respect those laws.”

Regulations and laws in marijuana will be strictly needed in California because starting January 1, having a joint of kush will be as casual as a smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer. Students and our younger generations will need strict regulations and laws in order to not abuse this new legal fad.

Ryan Tout, a 23-year-old student at CSULB, does not want anything wrong to arise in his community and said regulating marijuana is the way to go.

“As long as it does not bring a negative influence,” the psychology major said. “You want to keep it safe and you don’t want to get with the wrong crowd either. As long as they keep everything under control, I think it’s all good. I still believe that marijuana should be legal though. It is for medical purposes as well, not only recreational, so it will help people feel better.”

Hijazi said helping patients will always be gratifying for him and his employees.

“Our industry is a friendly industry,” he said. “Our employees are happy to work here because they are excited about the industry. They see the good things that they do. When you have a patient coming in here with cancer that says ´Please help me,´ and you do help them...What better feeling in the world could there be?”

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