Actor and cannabis legalization activist Woody Harrelson opened a new business in West Hollywood, California, on Friday, May 13: a legal cannabis dispensary that will also include a consumption lounge located in a backyard garden.
Harrelson’s new venture, The Woods, debuted with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the mayor of West Hollywood, Lauren Meister and the head of the city’s chamber of commerce, Genevieve Morrill. “Hopefully we’ve added more beauty and more good times here. Hopefully, we can make the West Hollywood Citizens a little bit higher,” said Harrelson to a crowd assembled outside The Woods, where at least one onlooker was lighting up. “It’s the greatest day that I’ve had in a long time.”
The Woods is one of what are expected to be up to 16 cannabis consumption lounges (according to Eater LA) in West Hollywood. The city of around 35,000 is becoming a haven for weed businesses in general and consumption lounges in particular, and a group of cannabis businesspeople have come together to promote and brand West Hollywood as a tourist destination called Emerald Village.
Located at 8271 Santa Monica Boulevard (next to Norah restaurant, in a space that used to be the studio of designer Thomas Schools), The Woods sells everything from smoking apparatuses to flowers and edibles in a beautifully designed space that feels like a high-end boutique.
“Well, you know for a long time, I used to think about, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a dispensary, your own dispensary, that’s just like the place you can go,” Harrelson told The Hollywood Reporter just before the ribbon-cutting (where guests included the actor’s wife Laura and his managers Jeremy Plager and Tracy Harshman). “But then I never did like the idea that you couldn’t consume on-site, as you can in say, you know, Amsterdam.”
Harrelson — whose partners in The Woods include Bill Maher, Schoos, Michael Berman (CEO of Schoos Design), and Jay Handal and Devon Wheeler (founders of dispensary chain Erba) — praised the city of West Hollywood for its embrace of consumption lounges.
“These guys are so broad-minded here in WeHo so they’ve allowed consumption,” said Harrelson, who also toured and fell for the space when it was Schoos’ design studio. The back area includes lush plantings and a koi pond. “I was just like, ‘Wow, I love this spot. I love where it is.’ So I decided to do it,” said Harrelson.
While The Woods carries a variety of cannabis brands, it is spotlighting organic, California and sun-grown strains per its famous owner’s preferences. “I very much believe in sun-grown,” explains the actor. “The war on drugs pushed [growers] indoors and you know, that’s fine. I call it chem weed and it also spawned the use of a great deal of fertilizers and artificial lights and so forth. And I just feel like we don’t need that anymore. We won the war on drugs here in California for this plant. Let’s bring it outdoors where it belongs. It really wants to be outside or at least in a greenhouse, but let it get real sun. Definitely, the quality is so much better.”
As for what he calls chem weed — which he has said are strains that push ever higher on THC levels — “that just blows the top of your heads off. And, it’s like, ‘Why do I need that? Just one hit is all I get? I’m done now.’”
Harrelson is hardly the only Hollywood player in the legal cannabis space. According to the Los Angeles Times, two other consumption lounges are in the works in West Hollywood, one backed by Jay-Z and another with Patricia Arquette as an investor. The crowd of stars that has started their own weed brands includes Seth Rogen, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa and Melissa Etheridge.
Harrelson tells THR he’d like to start his own brand as well. “I have a very specific kind of approach. I don’t want to go into it deeply, but I definitely want to do everything I can to encourage sun-grown herb.”
This evening at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood, the actor is set to receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing him for his longtime legalization activism, as part of the 18th annual Emerald Cup Awards. The event honors best-in-class cannabis purveyors in such categories as pre-roll, flower, dispensary, eco-conscious packaging and edibles.
For Harrelson — who was arrested in 1996 for planting four hemp seeds in protest of a Kentucky state law that conflated marijuana and industrial hemp — the legalization movement has gone far beyond where he ever imagined it would.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing because, to be honest, I never thought that it would get to this stage,” Harrelson told L.A. Weekly last month. “I never thought you’d even have it to where it was legal, much less that you could go get it out of the shop. So it’s pretty exciting.”