How One Cannabis Company Plans to Bring Dispensaries to LA’s Beach Cities

In 2017, Hermosa Beach became one of the first cities in Los Angeles’ South Bay to ban commercial cannabis. Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach soon followed. Today, they are among the one-third of California cities that prohibit retail marijuana. But prohibition may soon be coming to an end in the beach cities, thanks to a serious campaign to legalize cannabis through the local initiative process.

On paper, the push to bring cannabis dispensaries to Manhattan and Redondo is led by local 20-somethings. In reality, it’s spearheaded by a marijuana dispensary chain called Catalyst Cannabis Co. Catalyst has been using the local initiative process to get SoCal cities to open their doors to cannabis dispensaries. They succeeded in getting the El Monte City Council to legalize commercial cannabis in 2019.

Catalyst reaches out to local residents – often young people – and asks them to launch the petitions as the law requires. If they can gather signatures from 10% of the city’s registered voters within 180 days of filing, the proposed measure goes to the city council. The council has 10 days to enact the measure, direct staff to study its impacts, or put it to a vote.

Catalyst’s involvement in the beach cities’ initiatives has drawn skepticism.

“You have to take everything they say with a grain of salt,” Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand told the Daily Breeze. “They have a very direct conflict of interest about whether or not their initiative passes.”

Brand is no blanket prohibitionist. He uses medicinal marijuana himself. What he’s opposed to, he says, is special interests interfering with his city’s policies.

Manhattan Beach City Councilwoman Suzanne Hadley is also opposed to the effort.

“Unless and until this qualifies, I’m dead set against it and hope it fails,” she told the Breeze.

In all three cities, the initiative appears to have a decent chance of success. Prop 64, the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in California, received over 60% support in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. In Hermosa Beach, 71% of voters approved it.

The cannabis petitioner in El Segundo is expected to submit signatures in the next couple of weeks, according to City Attorney Mark Hensley. In Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, signatures may not be submitted for a couple more months. The Hermosa Beach City Council could also propose its own alternative ballot measure. It recently voted to form an advisory group to potentially put one forward.

What will Catalyst Cannabis Co. do if it succeeds in bringing marijuana to LA’s beach cities? It’s moving east. Catalyst CEO Elliot Lewis and co-founder Damian Martin say they’ll likely expand into Torrance and Carson next.