Desert Hot Springs (DHS) is the first city to legalize large scale medical marijuana (MMJ) cultivation and dispensaries in southern California. So far 11 businesses were approved to cultivate MMJ using 1.7 million square feet (ft2) which represents $25 per ft2 in taxes to DHS for the first 3000 ft2 then $10 per ft2 after that – an enormous tax boon.

Growers and developers have bought up nearly all the vacant land in the industrial zone in DHS and so other cities in the Coachella Valley have jumped on the opportunity and passed legislation to also allow cultivation and dispensaries into their cities. So far it includes the cities of:

Adelanto in San Bernardino

Needles at the Arizona borderCoachella only 15 minutes from Palm Springs and DHS

Desert Hot Springs only 15 minutes from Palm Springs

Cathedral City which is only 10 minutes from Palm Springs

Financial necessity caused the cities to allow medical marijuana after the great recession caused the State of California to take a greater share of city revenue and cut off revenue for redevelopment.

DHS is known as spa city due to the 28 boutique spas with natural hot mineral waters for which DHS is famous. Although unique in California, the hot springs that bubble up from subterranean aquifers attract international visitors but not enough to make it a popular worldwide attraction.  Enter the City Council, whose members had the vision to see this thing through. In 2014, after DHS suffered a fiscal emergency, City Council voted to legalize cultivation ad dispensaries. They chose industrial zones to grow MMJ and commercial sites for the dispensaries from which to sell it.

Police, concerned with security, asked Council to require 24 hour armed guards and security cameras covering all openings to the buildings. Planning department requires hostile landscaping by specifying thorny or needle type plants such as cactus and/or other species. Thorny plants like holly or bird’s nest spruces can also work as a deterrent. Other options might include needle bush, Spanish bayonet (a spine-tipped yucca) or prickly pear cacti.

The movement began when the State of California passed laws that permit cultivation and authorized cities to create laws to govern the industry. Those with permits from cities will be able to apply for State licenses but only if they have city permits first.

The land rush that followed the new laws of 2014 caused skyrocketing of prices for raw land which caused a rush to bring utilities to the growing sites. The utility companies met with all the growers and let them know that it may take years to meet all of their needs for water, power, sewer and gas. Many growers met this bad news with cancellations of their escrows and forfeitures of their deposits and left town. One such grower, whom I worked with personally, laughed bitterly at the prospect of waiting years to get the utilities needed to open shop. Desert Hot Springs City Council, ever ready to be of service to business, responded by appointing a project manager to obtain the efficiencies in time and money by consolidating the building of roads and other infrastructure among the growers. This project manager, Craig Ewing is working directly with each grower to assist and facilitate infrastructure requirements.

So far 30 applicants have been approved to cultivate some 1.2 million ft2 of land. But MMJ is not grown in the open air so great warehouses, some as large as 380,000 ft2  are under construction. Growers must control the temperature, humidity, light and water in very precise ways in order to grow medical grade marijuana. No longer the smelly, weak marijuana from Mexico and elsewhere in Central America and California as well, medical grade marijuana is assayed to determine the effective chemicals that bring relief to those suffering from chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy and other cancer treatments as well as insomnia, hypertension and many other maladies.

The professional involvement needed to meet these stringent standards for medical purposes include engineers, architects, lawyers, accountants and consultants as well as all of the tradesmen – carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and metal workers. DHS plans to use the new tax revenue to pave roads, bring sewers, improve parks and other public works, sidewalks, curbs, gutters and bus shelters to shield riders from the sun and intense wind of the desert.

Please call me with questions or comments: Rick Teisan, J.D. 760-835-8363