Cannabis lounges where customers could partake on site may be coming to the small Ventura County town of Ojai, a popular Southern California retreat and vacation destination.
The Ojai City Council this week signaled interest in moving forward with a proposal to allow three cannabis dispensaries in the city to open lounges where customers could smoke, vape or consume edibles.
The council originally was considering a policy that would allow only the consumption of edibles in the lounges, per a recommendation from the Ojai Planning Commission. That proposal was rejected Tuesday night, and the council requested additional time to reach out to the city’s three dispensaries to get a better idea of what the lounges might look like.
“They’re doing that with an open mind; it could involve edibles, smoking or vaping,” said Robin Godfrey, spokesperson for the city of Ojai.
The process is expected to take several months, Godfrey said.
The three dispensaries that would be allowed to open lounges are Ojai Greens, Sespe Creek Collective and Shangri-La Care Centers.
Beyond boosting tourism and business, having an on-site lounge would allow for more educational opportunities, said Jeffrey Kroll, the owner of Shangri-La Care Centers. He said his average customer’s age is 56, and his clients include first-time cannabis smokers.
“The advantage of having a group of people consuming on-site is it makes those who have never used cannabis more comfortable,” Kroll said.
Chelsea Sutula, the owner of Sespe Creek Collective, said she was excited to see little opposition from the council to the plan to add cannabis lounges in the city.
“We’ve been trying to get the city to approve this for almost a year,” Sutula said. “Our biggest constraint here is what real estate is available.”
Currently the three dispensaries have been permitted to operate only from an industrial area on the southern end of Ojai. Council members are also considering whether to allow dispensaries to open closer to the city center on East Ojai Avenue.
“A lot of people are looking for alternatives to bars to socialize in,” Sutula said.
Ojai has become an increasingly popular destination for Angelenos looking for a day or weekend trip. Tourism remains a hot-button issue, however, with crowds straining a tight market for hotel rooms and short-term vacation rentals banned by the city.