July 20, 2022

Juvie Cannabis Thieves Busted

Press release from the Desert Hot Springs Police:

Armed Robbery Arrest

Desert Hot Springs, July 20, 2022:
On Monday, 07/18/2022 at approximately 11:51 am, Desert Hot Springs Police Officers responded to the 66900 block of Ironwood Drive for a report of an armed robbery. The victim, a cannabis delivery driver, told officers she was making a delivery of product at an apartment complex in the area. When she arrived, a male subject walked to her vehicle and identified himself as the customer. While speaking with the subject, he attempted to forcefully take the product from the delivery driver. She initially attempted to resist the subject, at which time, he drew a black handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the driver. The driver fled in her vehicle and the suspect fled on foot. DHSPD Detectives responded to the scene and assumed the investigation. Detectives were able to develop information on a suspect, and on July 19, 2022, at approximately 11:00 am, DHSPD Detectives and Patrol Officers, assisted by a helicopter from CHP Air Operations, served a search warrant at an address in the 66900 block of Ironwood Drive. During the warrant, a firearm believed to be used in the robbery was recovered and two male juvenile suspects were located and detained. Following additional investigation, both suspects were subsequently placed under arrest and later booked into the Riverside County Juvenile Hall in Indio. Charges include violations of Penal Codes 211 – Armed Robbery, 245(a)(2) – Assault with a Firearm, and 182(a)(1) – Conspiracy to Commit Robbery.

permalink | July 20, 2022 at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2022

California Cannabis Cultivation Tax Headed For Repeal

A trailer bill in Sacramento would, among other things, repeal the cannabis cultivation tax which is currently assessed against cultivators at the rate of $10.08/ounce of dried flower.

permalink | June 27, 2022 at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2022

Anza Prefers Its Cannabis To Be Illegal

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has denied a permit for a cannabis dispensary in Anza. Anza, which has been plagued with numerous illegal cannabis cultivation sites (and nearly equally numerous raids from the Sheriff), prefers the status quo. I imagine a great number of the residents of Anza are the sort of people who think that things just go away when you make them illegal.

"Supervisor Chuck Washington, who represents Anza, said he’s 'not naive enough to not think that no one in Anza Valley is using cannabis.'" Anyone who can accurately translate that string of negatives is entitled to one free reefer from any dealer in Anza.

permalink | June 17, 2022 at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2022

Rooftop Cannabis Cultivation Suggested

"New York Mayor Eric Adams has floated the idea of rooftop cannabis greenhouses atop public housing buildings" in New York City. The first problem with that is NYC public housing is subsidized by the federal government which makes marijuana illegal anywhere in the housing. So very nice of the mayor to suggest cultivation in a place where it obviously won't happen. But I'm sure the city owns lots of other properties that have no federal involvement. If the mayor really wants to do something, he'll look into opening up some of those rooftops for cultivation — or maybe even other kinds of gardening.

permalink | April 18, 2022 at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2022

PBR Comes To Desert Hot Springs

"Pabst Labs, a cannabis beverage company, unveiled its brand new manufacturing facility and distribution center in Desert Hot Springs." "Pabst Labs produces Pabst Blue Ribbon’s 10mg High Seltzer, Not Your Father’s Cannabis-Infused Root Beer, as well as ST IDES Cannabis product lines, including its 100mg infused 4oz shots."

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that High Seltzer will be available for sale anywhere in the Coachella Valley. Their website lists dispensaries and delivery services up and down California, but nothing out here in the desert. How demoralizing!

permalink | March 25, 2022 at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2022

Four Digitals In DHS

Misson Lakes Market Place (8183)
You can see some riders in the Tour de Palm Springs coming along Little Morongo Road
after their rest stop at Mission Lakes Market Place.

Cholla (8110)

MedMen Cannabis Cultivation Facility (8939)
In front of the inactive (AFAIK) MedMen cultivation facility

Mt San Gorgonio (8101)
Mt San Gorgonio
catching the morning light above Desert Hot Springs High School.

permalink | February 19, 2022 at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2022

Here Are Four More

Cannabis Cultivation Facility (8106)
The MedMen cultivation facility in Desert Hot Springs
, not currently in use, as far as I know.

The Syndicate Dispensary (1)
The Syndicate dispensary
, formerly known as "Gas Blvd." Shot on Ilford Delta 3200 film in January.

Villa Moreliana (1)
Neon in the Grand Central Market on Broadway in L.A.
Ilford Delta 3200 film.

Broad Museum (6)
The Broad Museum
, Ilford Delta 3200 film.

permalink | February 18, 2022 at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2021

Cannabis Joins California State Fair

Beginning in 2022 there will be a cannabis competition at the California State Fair in Sacramento. There will not, however, be any consumption. The winners will be judged based solely on laboratory testing. All the details are here. Competitors must be California licensed cultivators which would seem to rule out those bright 4H kids. Minimum charge to enter the competition is $670.

permalink | November 13, 2021 at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2021

Cannabis Cultivation In Siskiyou County

Here's yet another article about the seemingly racist treatment of Hmong cannabis cultivators in Siskiyou County. This article has the same shortcoming as all the other articles I have read about the situation. No one asks the Siskiyou residents or the Siskiyou Supervisors "Why not legalize cannabis cultivation, bring it all out from the underground, regulate it, tax it and control the water use?" If I were the paranoid type I'd think there was a conspiracy among reporters to never ask that basic question. Siskiyou County has a problem with illegal cannabis cultivation because they've made cannabis cultivation illegal.

permalink | October 28, 2021 at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2021

Video Inside Desert Hot Springs's Biggest Cultivation Facility

Video inside the San Jac marijuana cultivation facility in Desert Hot Springs. They say this is the largest such facility in DHS. The story is broken into four segments, so keep viewing to the end to see all of it. I'm impressed with the audio in this little documentary. Everywhere they go inside the facility there is overwhelming white noise from the ventilation system (640 tons of A/C we are told), yet the voices are always clear enough to be understandable. (The first 2½ minutes are just intro that you can skip).

permalink | October 14, 2021 at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2021

Reefer Madness Alive In The Republican Armpit Of Riverside County

Residents of rural De Luz (just west of Temecula) are hauling out all the old shibboleths in their arguments against the first legal marijuana cultivation in Riverside Count outside of an incorporated city. Fine. Let 'em object. Send those developers over to Desert Hot Springs.

"Vikki Havins said she worries robbers will think her van is full of cannabis from Fuego Farms." Because that's just how they do it after spending millions to build a cultivation facility, they assemble a fleet of used Ford vans to drive their valuable cargo around rural backroads.

It would be very interesting, but terribly unethical, if someone who wanted to keep the marijuana cultivation real estate market high were to support a misinformation campaign to encourage the uninformed citizenry to panic. That would be the sort of thing Russia would do.

permalink | October 13, 2021 at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2021

Pick Your Own Hemp!

Yes! It's pick your own hemp season in Maine, but only at Sheepscot General Farm; and only hemp.

permalink | September 18, 2021 at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 5, 2021

The Latest Coachillin' Promotional Video

permalink | July 5, 2021 at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2021

States To Avoid

A list of the states where neither medical nor recreational marijuana are legal:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

permalink | June 28, 2021 at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2021

This Is What Marijuana Looked Like In 1980

Found Kodachrome Slide
Kodachrome slide from April 1980
scanned and shared by Thomas Hawk.

permalink | June 15, 2021 at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2021

Marijuana Cultivation in Siskiyou County

A story on the bizarre war against marijuana cultivation in Siskiyou County from the Sacramento Bee which frequently puts up a paywall, so I've copied the story here. As I read it, this seems to be yet another confirmation that for a lot of conservatives freedom means "freedom for me, but not for thee," especially if thou art not a white man. Two major questions that are mostly unaddressed are:

  1. Why not legalize marijuana cultivation in Siskiyou County? It would make it easier to regulate the water usage and environmental damage caused by legal growers. The legal growers would also tend to support law enforcement actions against the illegal growers. The county can't claim they don't have the water. Siskiyou County clearly has more water than Riverside County, and yet somehow Riverside County is able to support some vast, legal cultivation sites. Do I need to add that legalization would mean more tax dollars for the county which would help offset all the money they are wasting now chasing water trucks down rural roads.

  2. How much water is actually available in Siskiyou County? "The county is in the process of tallying its groundwater resources and pumping amounts." The article doesn't cite any water district or authority (other than the Sheriff) who would have a good estimate of their water supply.

Asian pot growers face sheriff raids, bulldozers in Northern California. They blame racism
MAY 26, 2021 05:00 AM, UPDATED MAY 26, 2021 10:26 AM


Day after day, sheriff's deputies drive up and down the road outside Steve Griset's 600-acre farm, pulling over anyone who appears to be hauling water for the thousands of marijuana greenhouses that have taken over the countryside here.

Griset has become a target, even though he grows alfalfa. Last year, investigators with the Siskiyou County District Attorney's Office raided Griset's house with a search warrant looking for his business records, and the DA followed up with a lawsuit in civil court.

Griset's alleged transgressions? He was selling water from his well to his pot-farming neighbors, immigrants of Hmong descent who have helped turn this sparsely populated, volcanic-soiled section of California into a major source of cannabis production.

After someone entered Griset's property during the night and damaged his well pump with an ax earlier this month, it became clear he was caught in an escalating conflict in Siskiyou County that has raised fevered complaints about anti-Asian harassment, environmental destruction, and unequal enforcement of California's complex cannabis laws.

"They're around my ranch almost all the time," he said of the sheriff's department. "It's really intimidating."

Law enforcement officers are aggressively enforcing ordinances that prohibit well owners from selling and trucking water to pot farms, most of them owned and tended by the farmers of Hmong and Chinese descent. Thousands of their greenhouse have quickly replaced a few square miles of juniper and brush in the Big Springs area in just a few years.

At the same time, deputies are threatening to cite local businesses supplying the cannabis farms with soil, lumber and other materials that amount to "aiding and abetting in the illegal activity," the sheriff's office said earlier this month on Facebook.

The sheriff is also recruiting private citizens to operate "heavy equipment, such as dozers and excavators" to bulldoze greenhouses to combat what the sheriff on Facebook calls the "illegal Commercial Cannabis Activity plaguing our county."

The pot growers believe they are being targeted because of their race, seizing on the "Stop Asian Hate" rallying cry following a rash of hate crimes. They've protested by the hundreds in front of the courthouse in Yreka, the county seat, and they're working with their attorneys, they say, to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county.

"We came here just to make a living," said Peter Thao, a former Sacramento mortuary owner who serves as a spokesman for the Hmong community in Big Springs. "And we feel that we are being targeted."

The growers argue that if you drive down secluded rural roads in Siskiyou County, you'll find large pot grows tended by white people. They ask: Why are only Asians being singled out?

Deputies, Thao said, "come out here and do horrible things and have treated these people horribly. It is totally unjustified."

Local officials fiercely dispute the charge that their actions are racially motivated. Instead, they said they're enforcing local laws prohibiting commercial pot farming and addressing the proliferation of greenhouses and grow sites filled with run-down camp trailers, ramshackle dwellings and living quarters often without power, water and sewage service that have overwhelmed Big Springs and a few other areas around the county.

The marijuana grows in Big Springs are visible from miles away in the lava rock hills below Mount Shasta, a shocking sight for many longtime residents and a reminder that the marijuana industry now has a major foothold in this county. They say the cannabis farms have scarred the environment, sucked precious groundwater from the region's supply, and led to violence.

"This is another way to try to enforce the law," said Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus. "It has absolutely nothing to do with race. And that I even have to say that really makes me angry."

For years, Siskiyou County law enforcement officials have said the growers in the area have ties to organized crime — an allegation the growers dispute.

Two growers allegedly tried to bribe the former sheriff, Jon Lopey, for $1 million in 2017 when he was wearing a wire. The siblings, Chi Meng Yang and Gaosheng Laitinen, remain in federal custody. They've pleaded not guilty, and their trial is scheduled for August in Sacramento.

The battle in Siskiyou County illustrates how in some parts of California, the legalization of marijuana has failed to bring the cannabis industry fully out of the shadows. In these places, large-scale marijuana farming remains a criminal enterprise.

Proposition 64, approved in 2016, allows local governments to ban commercial cannabis operations if they choose. Some conservative rural counties, like Siskiyou, have chosen not to allow any commercial cannabis operations. Siskiyou limits the number of pot plants on a property to 12. It has banned outdoor grows.

Since October, the sheriff's office has destroyed nearly 138,000 plants, seized at least 21,738 pounds of processed marijuana and $601,476 in cash from the grows in Big Springs. Deputies have cited or arrested 83 people. As California decriminalizes cannabis, county officials no longer can hold the growers in the local jail for very long.

"It's not like it used to be," said newly appointed Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue. "They plead guilty and pay the fine, and then (they're) right back to doing what they're doing."

Siskiyou County, instead, is going after marijuana farmers by aggressive regulation of the most important natural resource in the state: water.

Alfalfa and hay farmer Griset thought he'd never have to worry about water again when he sold his farm a few years ago in the San Joaquin Valley and bought a new one in Siskiyou County. His new place has a well with water to spare, and the political climate seemed favorable, too.

Siskiyou, after all, is the birthplace of the State of Jefferson movement to secede from liberal California and form a new conservative state. Here, property and water rights supposedly reign supreme. Now, he's not so sure.

"The State of Jefferson is the state of ordinances," Griset said, "and it's just absolutely mind-boggling."

Around a dozen water trucks sat parked and empty earlier this month under and around a pole barn on Griset's property, a few feet from the filling hoses connected to his well pump. Someone spray-painted "No steal" on a rock at the water truck filling station.


Lee, a computer programmer and entrepreneur was among the first Hmong to arrive in Siskiyou County from Fresno in 2015. Lee was responsible for many of the real estate transactions in Big Springs.

He told The Bee in 2017 that he and other Hmong men and women fell in love with Siskiyou County because its terrain reminded them of the mountains of Laos, where the Hmong lived and many farmed opium for generations. Years after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, thousands of Hmong refugees who fought on America's behalf were allowed to immigrate to the United States, with many of them settling in California's Central Valley.

In interviews, some Hmong marijuana farmers said they were drawn to the rural lifestyle.

"My parents have no kids no more. They want to be out here like back in the days, because, you know, no stress. It's just farming, camping-type style," said one Hmong grower, a 40-year-old man who has a wife, school-age kids and a new baby back home in Merced. "So they actually move out here and build themselves and live out here."

Most of the younger generation Hmong, like him, only tend to the grows seasonally, he said.

In Siskiyou County, the lure of cheap property and piles of tax-free cash from cannabis has outweighed the risk of a crackdown from local authorities. In just a few square miles of the craggy volcanic hills north of Mount Shasta, a land rush has been underway since 2015. Parcels originally sold for as cheap as a few hundred dollars an acre.

Swimming pools and large portable tanks supply many of the grows, with well water delivered by tanker truck.

LaRue, the sheriff, estimates there are now 5,000 to 6,000 greenhouses growing pot in the Big Springs area alone. Almost all of the greenhouses have shown up within the last three years. He said as many as 4,000 to 8,000 people may be tending them.

If so, that represents a major uncounted demographic for Siskiyou County, with an official population of just 44,000. Census figures show the county is 86% white and 1.6% Asian. Latinos and a large population of the Karuk Tribe, which has fought its own battles over water and white settlement, make up most of the rest of the county's population.

The Hmong growers said cutting off their water has had an immediate and devastating effect on their operations and the multigenerational families who work here.

"Our plants are dying, our chickens dying, our animals are dying," said the Hmong grower.

He asked that he not be identified out of fear that if he spoke critically of the county his parcels would be targeted for a "chop" — what he called the law enforcement raids that happen in Mount Shasta Vista, a 1,641-lot subdivision that's been converted into cannabis farms run primarily by Hmong families.

He took a Sacramento Bee reporter into the subdivision as deputies dismantled one of his neighbor's greenhouses and destroyed what appeared to be hundreds of plants.

The next week, two dozen law enforcement officers raided properties tended by Chinese immigrant farmers on the hillsides on the other side of County Road A-12, the main highway through Big Springs. They eradicated 50,861 plants and bulldozers tore down 143 greenhouses, LaRue said.

The grower said many in the area would prefer not to rely on water trucks, but the county won't issue well permits.

Now, with the latest crackdown, even the portable toilet companies are reluctant to come out to service the toilets placed at many parcels out of fear they'll be hit with "aiding and abetting" charges.

"They couldn't even come in and come clean the toilets no more, and they say the sheriff's f------ with them so they're not supposed to do that," the grower said.

LaRue, the sheriff, said that's not true. He said it's only considered a crime if a delivery or a service is clearly connected to a cannabis operation.

"If you deliver a pizza out there, which isn't happening, but just say it was, that's not aiding and abetting commercial cannabis activity," LaRue said. "But when you show up with, you know, with thousands of dollars of soil … you're a part of this."

Earlier this month, two deputies pulled over Brandon Fawaz's truck hauling a load of fertilizer on the road leading to the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision. He said he wasn't delivering to the cannabis operations, and he wasn't cited.

He said business owners like him should not have to "live in fear" that they'll be arrested or cited if they end up driving down the wrong road.

"The cannabis laws are confusing," he said. "I don't know who's a legal grower and who's not."


In the beginning, the county officials tried to crack down by doing raids on the grows and chopping down and seizing their harvest, but they say they quickly popped back up again, often within days.

"The same day, we've had them replant," said LaRue, the sheriff who was appointed last year.

Last summer, the county supervisors tried something new: Attacking the growers' water supply. They passed an ordinance that prohibited local well owners from selling water to marijuana farms. Violators face fines of up to $5,000 a day. Neighbors said it did little to slow the massive lines of water trucks.

"There were 93 water trucks going past my home, in one direction, between 5:30 in the morning and 12 noon," said Ginger Sammito, who lives near Griset's property.

Citing California's drought emergency and after hearing complaints that local residential wells were going dry, the county Board of Supervisors earlier this month took the ban on pot water even further. They prohibited water trucks on certain roads leading to large grow operations, such as County Road A-12 outside Sammito's and Griset's properties.

Teams of deputies and California Highway Patrol officers now buzz up and down A-12 and other heavily trafficked cannabis roads looking for violators. On A-12, deputies have stopped at least 75 people since the supervisors passed the ordinance on May 4.

So far, deputies impounded at least four vehicles for ordinance violations, and issued 11 citations, though LaRue said some of the citations were for marijuana possession or traffic violations and weren't related to the ordinance.

Sammito, the neighbor who counted all the water trucks driving past her Big Springs home, said her well's water line has dropped by several feet, and it's increasingly filled with sediment.

She said she's one of the lucky ones.

"There's 31 wells that went dry, including our fire department's. We currently have no fire service in this area," said Sammito, a retired statistician who worked for the U.S. Forest Service.

The Hmong growers and Griset dispute that their operations are having a substantial impact on the region's groundwater. They argue that pumping water into trucks for cannabis grows represents just a fraction of the amount pumped by hay and alfalfa farmers in the area.

"They honestly believe that three of these drain the aquifer, and their wells went dry," Griset said, holding up one of the small pipes that connect hoses to water trucks. "And they even protested against this."

The county is in the process of tallying its groundwater resources and pumping amounts to comply with state law enacted in the last drought that seeks to regulate groundwater use for the first time. The state considers the Shasta River valley north of Mount Shasta a "medium priority basin" that isn't critically over-drafted. Big Springs sits on its eastern boundary.

The sheriff estimates that it would take almost 30 acre-feet per day of water to grow what county officials estimate to be the 2 million marijuana plants being tended across Siskiyou County. An acre-foot is enough to flood an acre of land one foot deep with water — or 325,851 gallons.

At the same time, county officials said that at least 388 agricultural production wells pump around 38,000 to 40,000 acre-feet each year for irrigated agriculture from the Shasta groundwater basin alone, with most of that going to alfalfa. The rate of pumping for traditional agriculture has increased by about 40% since the 1990s.

If pot was consuming 30 acre-feet a day over a year, it would be an additional 10,950-acre-foot strain on the county's groundwater supplies.

But Griset said those numbers are wildly out of line with the reality on the ground. It would take more than 2,100 water trucks to carry that amount each day, since a truck can typically only haul up to 4,500 gallons at time.

Griset estimates that he only pumped about 50 acre-feet into trucks over the course of an entire year — and he said he was by far the biggest supplier of water to the growers in his area, filling as many as 150 trucks in a day. (He declined to say how much the growers are paying him for water.)

But he said he can see why his neighbors blame the trucks for wells drying up instead of the irrigation sprinklers like his that this time of year are blasting water nonstop on the Shasta Valley's hay and alfalfa fields.

"The line just kept getting longer and longer," he said. "Pretty soon there's like 50 trucks lined up to get water. They have to wait three hours to four hours. Local people look and they go, 'Oh my God, look at all those water trucks and how much water is going out.' "


Andrus, the district attorney, said protecting groundwater might be a side benefit of enforcing the county's ordinance, but it's not the intent.

"We're not pretending that this is something that's trying to regulate anything except for water being used for cannabis," he said. "It's a way to enforce California's and Siskyiou's cannabis laws. That's what it's for. It is not designed to protect the aquifer, or the groundwater."

Andrus has since sued Griset and another farmer for violating the rules. The defendants are fighting the lawsuits in civil court. Griset has not been charged with a crime following the September search warrant raid at his farmhouse.

LaRue said the crime problem has only gotten worse in Big Springs over the last few years as criminal operations have taken over and put in industrial grow houses. Investigators suspect human trafficking with people being forced to tend grows against their will, LaRue said.

"We believe there's people in this community that don't want to be here that are being kind of forced to be here," he said.

Siskiyou officials say they've had little help from California officials to address the problem.

"How do you even help defend them against the tyranny that's out there without getting people to come in and help?" LaRue said, sitting in a sheriff's office conference room in Yreka. A Thin Blue Line flag was on the wall.

A sheriff's office list of its calls from last year in Big Springs shows deputies responding to four assaults, four reports of child abuse, nine burglary calls and 13 calls for disturbing the peace. They seized 21 guns since October.

There have been five murders in the Mount Shasta Vista area in Big Springs in the last three years, LaRue said. Before 2015, the sheriff's detectives investigated one to two homicides a year in the sprawling county that has a land mass nearly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. ["One to two homicides a year" translates into three to six homicides over three years, so five homicides in three years is consistent with prior years; IOW, there has been no increase in the rate of homicides. Ron says.]

"That gang stuff, the turf war, if you will, out there that's got to end because people are getting killed. And it's not worth it. It didn't matter what they're growing. If they're growing tomatoes, we'd be doing the same thing. It's just sad what it's become."

The most recent murder culminated with the arrest last month of Alvin Thao, 26, for the August murder of 52-year-old Shao H. Huang in the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision. Thao also has been charged with robbery and kidnapping.

Other crimes never get reported, LaRue said.

"We've gotten reports of people showing up at the Mayten Store that are hosing off, they're bleeding, looking like they got stabbed," LaRue said. "We don't hear about that."


Mouying Lee, the computer programmer and entrepreneur who was among the first Hmong to settle in Big Springs, was among those who filed an unsuccessful civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff's office alleging Hmong were harassed by local law enforcement officers as state officials investigated claims of voter fraud. Lee had sought to challenge the county's marijuana ban by collecting signatures for a countywide vote in 2016.

The county argued that deputies only provided security for the state officials investigating complaints that dozens of people from out of town had registered to vote at vacant lots or at Lee's address.

In October, Andrus' office charged Lee with 78 counts of money laundering, falsifying tax returns and cannabis cultivation. Judge Karen Dixon ordered him held on $3 million bail, arguing he was a flight risk because he has family in Thailand.

In court, Lee's attorney argued he is an American citizen, with close ties to the community and not a flight risk. They said his bail was ridiculously high for someone accused of a nonviolent crime. They argued his continued incarceration put Lee at risk of contracting the coronavirus in jail and ran counter to recent state reforms that seek to end the cycle of keeping non-violent offenders — most of them minorities — in jails and prisons for minor drug crimes.

The issue came to a head earlier this month in Dixon's court.

Lee's attorneys argued that because authorities had seized Lee's assets, he had no way of posting bail.

The district attorney argued that Lee continued to make tens of thousands of dollars from rents on his grow sites, and that he had more than $750,000 in assets that detectives couldn't account for.

After a daylong hearing, Dixon agreed to free Lee, but she imposed numerous conditions on his release. He has to wear a GPS ankle monitor, he forfeited his expired passport, the DA put him on the so-called federal "no-fly list," and he was ordered to make sure there's no cannabis production on any of the properties under his name. He's not allowed to visit them.

He also is required to allow county officials to place meters on any source of water on property he owns.

To local authorities, Lee is a ringleader of a massive criminal enterprise, cashing in on rent and the proceeds from drugs grown on the dozens of properties he owns or manages in Big Springs.

But to the Hmong growers, he's a respected community leader.

The day of Lee's release, dozens of Hmong families gathered under Griset's pole barn a few feet from his well.

Earlier that day, they tried to hold the gathering at a park in the nearby city of Weed, with some of them carrying American flags and flowers. But they were forced to move after a local official drove down and told them they couldn't gather there because they didn't have a permit.

At the barn, an elderly Hmong woman chanted and sang in her native language into a microphone as around 200 others sipped Bud Lights and piled rice and rich stews onto paper plates from a long buffet table.

As the gathering was winding down, on the dirt road leading up to the barn, two deputies pulled over Fawaz, the fertilizer hauler.

Thao, the former Sacramento mortuary owner serving as the Hmong spokesman, said his people aren't leaving, despite the risks of living without water.

"If the sheriff continues to practice this water issue by taking away from these people, they're not gonna go home. I know that. And it's gonna get worse. It's going to be televised not just locally, nationally and possibly internationally."

Thao said LaRue, the new sheriff, has made no effort to speak with the Hmong clan elders, who in that culture settle disputes and set policy.

"If they want to meet with us, we're more than happy," he said. "We're not cartel. We're not afraid and ashamed to meet with them."

LaRue said that he's reached out directly to the growers, including Lee.

LaRue approached a group of them at the entrance to Mount Shasta Vista, soon after the water truck ordinance passed. He said he and a sergeant were surrounded by "very angry folks."

"We were mainly getting screamed at and they blocked us in," LaRue said. "So we just left the area and got out of there." The following week, LaRue said he gave his number to one of the growers.

"I said, 'Hey, give this to whoever's in charge out there,' and I said, 'Have them call me,' " he said.

But, quietly, some of the growers acknowledge that things are getting out of hand, as an influx of Chinese newcomers have bulldozed hillsides to build even more massive greenhouses.

"They f------ the shit up for everyone," said the grower from Merced who asked that his name not be used. "We do blame them a little bit, but, you know, it's just what it is. And I think the sheriff, they just got tired of us. But, you know, at the end of the day, we still want our rights. It's a private property, and we can drive in here with our water trucks ... Don't f------ just make up some rules and f------ target straight us."

Griset, the farmer who'd been selling his water to the Hmong, believes he's doing nothing wrong, but he also admits he feels increasingly uncomfortable with the long line of greenhouses that are creeping closer along the hills toward the edge of his hay fields.

"They came in with bulldozers and just cleared areas and just put solid greenhouses. And I don't even want my water going to any of that," Griset said. "We just watched them build and build and build and build every year, and I go, 'Oh my God, there is not gonna be enough water for these people. This is gonna be crazy. I don't want to do this.'"

permalink | May 27, 2021 at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2021

Desert Hot Springs and Marijuana

NBC News has an article about the cannabis industry in Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs. My comments are in italics.

'If you build it, they will come': California desert cashes in on early cannabis investment

“It’s been incredible to see the transformation,” said Doria Wilms, deputy city manager of Desert Hot Springs. “We don’t see it slowing down.”

May 10, 2021, 5:28 AM PDT
By Alicia Victoria Lozano
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — Along a hot, dusty stretch of freeway in California's Coachella Valley, a green rush is booming that not even the coronavirus pandemic can slow.

Desert Hot Springs, once a sleepy retirement community overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbor, Palm Springs, to the south, is transforming into a cannabis-growing capital as businesses lured by tax incentives and a 420-friendly local government pour into the small city. [DHS is a city of lower- and middle-class workers, mostly Latino; not a "sleepy retirement community."]

"It's fun times right now to be the mayor," said Mayor Scott Matas, who has been in city government since 2007 and once voted to implement a moratorium on cannabis businesses.

Last year the industry contributed more than $4 million to city revenue, overtaking real estate as the biggest generator of tax profit, Matas said. City officials anticipate an even higher revenue stream from cannabis businesses this year.

Deputy City Manager Doria Wilms said: "It's been incredible to see the transformation. We don't see it slowing down."

A new industry blossoms

It took Gold Flora CEO Laurie Holcomb only 48 hours to decide to open a cultivation business in Desert Hot Springs after it began to allow large-scale operations. She already owned a real estate development company and saw an opportunity to expand into the growing industry.

In eight growing rooms inside Gold Flora's cultivation facility, insulated metal panels similar to those in walk-in coolers shield more than 9,000 cannabis plants from the unrelenting sun. Even without air conditioning, the building will never heat up beyond 80 degrees inside despite triple-digit temperatures outside, facilities manager Adam Yudka said. Plants are stored atop rolling benches that use an internal irrigation system to water crops individually.

Gold Flora owns and operates five warehouse-size buildings, some of which are rented to other cannabis businesses. The sprawling campus, covering about 23 city blocks, was built from the ground up.

"Most people, when they think about the desert, they think they're going out in the middle of nowhere," Holcomb said. "It made sense that if you build it, they will come."

A city brought back from the brink

Gold Flora and other companies like it represent a major shift for the desert economy. Matas, who was re-elected to a third term in November, remembers a time around 2011 when the city had just "$400 in the bank." City officials froze salaries, cut programs and considered filing for bankruptcy protection, Reuters reported. The city had previously filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

The tax revenue has already helped to pay for a new City Hall, a library and roads, as well as more police officers. Housing developers eye the area as jobs attract more people to the desert. Residents also benefit from the boom — of about 29,000 residents, at least 2,300 work in the cannabis industry, Wilms said. [The new library was paid for by the county, not the city.]

Desert Hot Springs, about two hours east of Los Angeles near Joshua Tree National Park, boasted more than 200 spas throughout the 1940s and the 1950s that were fed by a natural underground aquifer, which still provides water for much of the Coachella Valley. But the city had fallen on hard times financially in the last 20 years. [The hot water aquifer supplies water only to hotels, spas and resorts in DHS, Desert Edge and Sky Valley.]

In 2013, the city declared a fiscal emergency to avoid filing for Chapter 9 for a second time, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city had emerged from its first bankruptcy filing in 2004, but less than 10 years later its reserves were dwindling again after an economic downturn and decreased development.

Only medical marijuana was legal in California at the time, but city officials decided to take a risk on what appeared to be a growing industry as states like Washington and Colorado legalized recreational cannabis. Adult-use recreational marijuana became legal in 2016.

In 2014, Desert Hot Springs became the first city in Southern California to legalize large-scale medical cannabis cultivation. Palm Springs followed, as did other desert cities in the Coachella Valley. Marijuana growers and real estate developers rushed to buy dusty plots of land even when the parcels came without infrastructure, including roads and utilities, hoping to cash in on the state's promise of becoming the biggest cannabis producer in the country.

Business zones were established to quarantine large operations in an industrial section away from residents. Much of the land remained barren and untouched until companies with a little sense of adventure decided to break ground.

"There was really no reason to cross the [Interstate] 10," Matas said. "People ignored the north side of the freeway for so long."

'Cannatourism' could be the future

Fast-forward to 2021 and that side of the freeway, which connects Southern California to the rest of the country, is dotted with hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouses. There is no cannabis smell and there are no retail shops in the industrial zone. Instead, warehouses remain inconspicuous except for flashy cars and security guards outside the buildings. [If you regard two- and three-story buildings enclosing acres of cannabis just sitting alone in the desert and lighted up like military bases to be "inconspicuous" then you just might need glasses.]

In December, the City Council unanimously approved two measures to grow "cannatourism" in the region. One allows for the creation of cannabis "entertainment facilities," and the other gives hotels the green light to sell cannabis inside their properties. A House of Blues-style concert venue is already in the works, although under state law businesses cannot sell both cannabis and alcohol at the same time.

"The city has been awesome to work with," said Holcomb of Gold Flora. "You have to remember that four to five years ago, people didn't want to touch [cannabis], but Desert Hot Springs had the foresight to enter the industry early on."

Neighboring Palm Springs, with its rows of midcentury modern homes and golf courses, has already capitalized on the tourism side of cannabis. Retail stores and consumption sites are sprinkled among clothing stores and spas. Last month, the latest cannabis dispensary and lounge opened in an old bank building following $1 million of renovations. On Mother's Day, the Four Twenty Bank — a dispensary lounge, not a bank — offered all moms who visited free flowers, according to its website.

The idea behind cashing in on cannatourism comes from "treating cannabis like anything else," said Jocelyn Kane, vice president of the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network, which advocates for cannabis businesses in the desert.

"These spaces aren't just a place to light up," she said. "It's a place to have a night out."

Going green in the desert

Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs are in a kind of cannabis tax war as they now compete for new business. In February, Desert Hot Springs lowered its cultivation tax — $25.50 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and $10.20 per square foot for each square foot over 3,000 square feet — to a flat rate of $10 per square foot. Palm Springs already charges $10 per square foot, and it offers a $5-per-square-foot rate in its "Cannabis Overlay Zone" north of the I-10 corridor.

Kings Garden, one of the first companies to break ground in the otherwise unforgiving landscape, operates 300,000 square feet of warehouse space near the overlay zone between Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. [NBC seems to have the same concept of geography as The Desert Sun. Kings Garden is IN Palm Springs as is the overlay zone.]

Chief Operating Officer Charlie Kieley, a Palm Springs native, spent 15 years working in Northern California's cannabis industry before he returned to the Coachella Valley. Up north, cultivators favor outdoor grow operations, but that was not an option in the dry, hot desert, he said. With constant sun and almost no rain, growing cannabis in the desert requires a mammoth water and power supply to keep indoor operations going when outside temperatures soar.

Kings Garden, which produces about 40,000 pounds of cannabis flower annually, uses a water filtration technology similar to what municipal systems use. Rather than let condensation and runoff water go to waste, Kings Garden recycles and reclaims its water supply, getting about 70 percent of what it needs internally. The remaining 30 percent comes from the municipal water district, Kieley said. Water that cannot be repurposed for cannabis cultivation is donated to a local farmer for use on seasonal crops. [I've no idea what they mean by "local farmer." The only agriculture in this end of the valley is cannabis. The non-cannabis farmers are all at the eastern end of the valley, but maybe they are trucking their wastewater way down there. Who knows?]

The desert has offered companies something other areas can't, the freedom and space to grow.

"We're working with municipalities who are very forward-thinking," he said. "The desert is not as crowded, like San Bernardino or L.A. It's a great place to do business."

permalink | May 10, 2021 at 01:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2019

Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission - January 8, 2019

Selection of Chair and Vice-Chair

Larry Buchanan and Scott De La Torre nominated themselves to serve another year in their respective positions, Chair and Vice-Chair. Approved 4-0.

Development Permit For Five Contemporary Mediterranean Homes In Rolling Hills Estates

Recent history of proposed development by Elyon Development on these five lots:

  • At the November 2018 meeting of the Planning Commission Elyon Development presented their proposal for five mid-century modern homes for these lots. The city planning staff had given erroneous information to Elyon Development earlier, telling them that since there were only five homes, they wouldn't have to bring their proposal before the Planning Commission at all. Later, they were told that they DID have to go before the Planning Commission because it was more than four homes. At the Planning Commission meeting there was strong opposition from the current owners and residents of the incomplete Rolling Hills Estates and for that reason the Planning Commission rejected the proposal.
  • Elyon Development appealed to the City Council and their appeal was heard at the December 12, 2018, City Council meeting. At this hearing the error by city staff was given a different explanation. Now the city said the proposed development of five lots had to come before the Planning Commission because contemporary Mediterranean home designs were included in the original approvals of the tract in 2006 and these proposed mid-century homes conflicted with that. Again there was opposition from the neighbors, but now some of them admitted they opposed the Elyon proposal because the developer had not made much of an effort to contact those neighbors in advance to tell them of his plans. They said they didn't really object to the designs. Others, however, continued to insist that smaller, mid-century modern homes would pull down the value of their contemporary Mediterraneans. The developer provided testimony that his homes would be of a higher quality than the existing homes and that new homes identical to his design were selling for higher prices in Palm Springs. My gut sense is that real estate developers have a better knowledge of the market than others who are not real estate developers, but we're not going to test that here because the City Council voted to uphold the decision of the Planning Commission. They did, however, acknowledge that the error by city staff (the unnamed person they blamed was new and no longer works for the city) had cost the developer unnecessary fees and time, so they directed the City Manager to try to set that right by offsetting Elyon Development's expenses on their other projects in the city.
  • Meanwhile, at the December 11, 2018, Planning Commission, Watermarke Homes presented a proposal to build contemporary Mediterranean homes on 16 other empty lots in Rolling Hills Estates. The approval for that sailed through the Planning Commission slicker than snot.
  • Which brings us to tonight, January 8, where Elyon Development presented its proposal for five contemporary Mediterranean homes on its lots.

No one from the public had any comments on this proposal. With no discussion, the motion was made to approve. The vote to approve was 4-0.

One-Year Extension For DHS Therapeutics

This is a marijuana cultivation site proposal that would be located on Cabot Road about a block south of Two Bunch Palms. The City Council approved four CUPs for the site in February 2017.

One member of the public commented. He began by asking the Commission if any of them smoked marijuana or if any of their kids or wives [sic] smoked marijuana. Chair Buchanan interrupted him to try to explain how public comments work, but the man interrupted Chair Buchanan and said he was asking the questions. Mr. Buchanan continued to explain that none of the Commissioners could respond directly to his questions to which the man responded "Okay, I'm sure none of you smoke marijuana. Not your kids, not grandkids." He wanted to know why they would let it be grown here. Was it intended for some other "junky town," he suggested.

Mr. Buchanan explained the rules of public comments again.

The extension was approved 4-0.

Amendment To CUP For Blue Mango

This concerns a 1.15-acre parcel at 65265 San Jacinto Lane. Previously approved for marijuana cultivation, the developer wants to add manufacturing, extraction, packaging and distribution to its permitted uses.

Approved 4-0.

Vintage Trailer Resort At Aqua Soleil

Aqua Soleil is proposing to replace that rather sad RV facility on its property with a new, upscale vintage trailer resort to be called Air Heart Vintage Trailer Resort. If you've been wondering what it's like to spend a weekend in an Airstream, here's your chance. They propose to ultimately have 32 trailers there. These will function and be taxed the same as hotel rooms. At the same time, incidentally, this provides an opportunity to lock in Aqua Soleil's share of the expense of a future traffic light at Park Lane and Palm Drive.

Diane Powell, Vice President of the homeowners' association at Skys Haven, which is located across Palm Drive from the Aqua Soleil. She was concerned that the traffic created by visitors hauling trailers in and out of this development would be excessive.

It was explained to her by staff that the vintage trailers would be permanently located there, and not creating any traffic issues. In fact, there will be slightly less traffic, since the existing RV park does have trailers coming and going.

Approved 4-0.

CUP For A Health Center In The Vons Shopping Center

The location is 14238 Palm Drive in the Vons shopping center. I believe it's the storefront that used to house Liberty Tax Service. Have you noticed the lack of the Statue of Liberty promotion on Palm Drive there this year?

The applicant calls its business People's Community Clinic and they will provide "FDA approved contraceptive methods and supplies, family planning counseling and education, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, HIV screening, cervical cancer screening, male and female permanent contraception, and limited infertility services." City staff said that they had received one email comment asking if the clinic would provide abortion services. Staff said that the applicant had not said if they would or not. People's Clinic's website suggests they offer complete health services, not just what was listed in the city staff report.

The applicant said they had offices in Hemet, Los Angeles and West Covina. They are a non-profit. He said they would not perform abortions. Hours will be 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Approved 3-0-1. Vice Chair De La Torre abstained, but did not say why.

Amending Housing Ordinances To Conform To State Legislation

Subjects addressed in these amendments include:

  • Identifying a zones where emergency shelters are allowed as a permitted use without a conditional use or other discretionary permit ("by-right zone").
  • Transitional and supportive housing to be considered a residential use subject only to those restrictions that apply to other residential dwellings of the same type in the same zone.
  • Defines "family" as "a group of individuals living together in a dwelling unit as a single housekeeping unit under a common housekeeping management plan based on an internally structured relationship providing organization and stability."
  • To permit "Accessory Dwelling Units" in all residential zones. An ADU must have permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. If there's no kitchen, then it's a "Guest House." ADUs within existing structures must be allowed in all single-family residential zones. If an ADU requires an addition or new structure, then development standards (such as parking, height, lot coverage, lot size and maximum unit size) may be applied.
  • "When a developer agrees to construct the requisite percentage of affordable housing units or child care facilities, the city must grant a density bonus [and] other specified incentive or concessions to the developer." Incentives or concessions are (1) reduction in site development standards or modification of zoning code or architectural design requirements, such as a reduction in setback or minimum square footage requirements; or (2) approval of mixed use zoning; or (3) other regulatory incentives or concessions which actually result in identifiable and actual cost reductions.
  • The city cannot block manufactured homes (that meet the building code) from being erected on residential lots [imagine how that would go over in Rolling Hills Estates].

Attorney Mizrahi explained that this will all come back before the Planning Commission again in 6 to 8 months as part of the General Plan update.

Chair Buchanan moved for approval. Vice Chair De La Torre seconded "provided that we add the additional parking space" by which he meant, I believe, that the city could still require an additional off-street paved parking space when an ADU is constructed...subject to state law. Approved 4-0.

These revisions now go to the City Council for their final approval.

permalink | January 13, 2019 at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2018

DHS Planning Commission, May 8, 2018

New Commish
The meeting began with the swearing in of new Commissioner James Nindel. This is Mayor Matas' appointment to replace Dirk Voss. Mr. Nindel's application for the position tells us he has lived in DHS for only 9 months. He retired from USAID's Office of Procurement. He has not been on a city board in any city before now. He moved here from St. Augustine, Florida. He said in his cover letter "I believe that DHS should demand (through code enforcement) that boarded-up windows be immediately repaired and bars taken down and replaced with electronic security systems. The trash on vacant lots between buildings on Palm Drive should be picked-up by the land owners and businesses."

The four other Planning Commissioners are Jan Pye (Chair), Peter De la Torre (Vice Chair), Larry Buchanan, and Gary Gardner.

Amendment to the CUP for Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility

The CUP was originally approved in November 2015. They want to convert 854 s.f. of their operations that were previously a secure storage room and a packaging room to a distribution area. This should not make any difference in their tax payments to the city. The address of the property is 13310 Little Morongo Road, the place with a lot of greenhouses.

Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility (1)

Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility (2)

After no testimony and no discussion at all, the amendment was approved unanimously.

If I understand correctly, the Planning Commission has final say on CUPs for marijuana businesses, so this decision does not have to be approved by the city council.

Amendment to the CUP for Maraparm DHS California

Maraparm DHS California wants to increase the size of their proposed facility from from 20,664 s.f. to 21,697 s.f. and to rotate the building to take better advantage of the sunlight. Their facility will be located on 15th Street (currently dirt) between Little Morongo and Cabot Road (also dirt there). Their CUP was originally approved in September 2017.

This facility will also have greenhouses. In the original plan the greenhouses were north of the building that will hold all functions other than growing. This very sensible proposal is to rotate the plan 180°, so the building will not cast a shadow on the greenhouses. (Kinda makes you wonder how it ended up the other way to start with.)

The cultivation area of the building will be 17,360 s.f. and will generate $218,600 in cultivation tax revenue annually for the city.

The facility will be on septic until sewers are put in there, but the septic itself is only for ordinary waste. Wastewater from cultivation itself has to be contained separately and not put into the ground.

After no testimony and extremely little discussion by the commissioners, approved unanimously.

Sign Variance for the Harborside Facility

Here is an interesting item, finally. Harborside, the very well known cannabis business in Oakland, will be running the dispensary to be built behind the Arco station at Palm Drive and Paul Road, next to the I-10 interchange. Their CUP was among the very first approved in the city, and it's taken quite a while to get to this stage.

Harborside has very high name recognition among cannabis aficionados.

Founded in 2006 by Steve DeAngelo, Harborside is the most respected and largest cannabis dispensary in the United States. Harborside has over 200,000 registered consumers and was first in the nation to support education for seniors, veterans and families with severely ill children; first in the country to offer CBD-rich cannabis; and the first to treat children with Dravet syndrome. Harborside continues to set an example of diversity and compliance, and is one of the prime advocates of diversity, sustainability and economic justice in the industry.

The sign will display Harborside's logo only, shown below. No green cross; no marijuana leaf.

Harborside Logo

The overall proposed height is 70 feet. Harborside proposed a 200 s.f. sign rated to withstand 160 MPH winds. City code would require only that the sign withstand 130 MPH winds. The usual height limit for a sign of this type in DHS is 25 feet and the maximum sign area limit is usually 125 s.f. So, Harborside is asking for a variance to allow this sign. A monument sign and the sign mounted on the building were also included in this package. The neighboring Arco sign is 49 feet high and 156 s.f. The Arco sign is further from the highway than the proposed Harborside sign, so the bridge there does not block the view of it. The Harborside sign needs to be higher to avoid being blocked by the bridge.

In the site plan shown below I've highlighted I-10 at the lower left as well as the two possible sites for the sign ("Second Choice" won out). Paul Road runs left to right across the top of this image.

Harborside Site Plan
(click for a higher res image)

City staff had proposed reducing the sign size to 160 s.f., but the developer said that it takes so long for a sign like this to be made, they have already ordered it at 200 s.f. The difference in size is not great and if the city insists on the 160 s.f. sign, there will be a delay for some months and extra expense for the developer. It takes 14 weeks from the time it is ordered for the final sign to be delivered. The dispensary's owner said they had done a survey of signs along interstates and 200 s.f. was the biggest they saw, and they saw a lot of them. The sign costs nearly $100,000. He expects 80% of their business to come from those who do not reside in DHS.

They hope to open in July 2018, but it may be early August.

A motion was made to approve subject to moving the sign back away from the highway to the "Second Choice" location as shown on the site map above, and keeping the 200 s.f. sign. Approved unanimously.

Streamlined Process For Amending Entitlements For Cannabis Cultivators

Cultivators, if they want to include manufacturing or distributing or testing facilities, have to come back to the city to get their CUP revised. Normally, this would mean a return to the Planning Commission which is expensive and takes time. Last year an ordinance changed this process so that if they wanted to convert some of their area to manufacturing (and they are in good standing in relation to the city), then city staff could make the revision without a trip to the Planning Commission. The proposed ordinance before the Planning Commission this night was to do the same for distribution and testing.

Ryan Fingerhut from High Road Consulting Group rose to comment in favor of this ordinance. He added, however, that the city also needs to revise their ordinances to permit testing facilities in the commercial zones.

Moved, seconded and approved unanimously with no changes.

permalink | May 16, 2018 at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2018

Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission - 2/13/2018

Commissioners Sworn In

All five commissioners were sworn in for this term. Four of them were familiar incumbents, and the new one (taking Cathy Romero's seat) was Gary Gardner who was appointed by Yvonne Parks. The members of the Planning Commission for this year are: Dirk Voss (Chair), Jan Pye, Scot De La Torre, Gary Gardner and Larry Buchanan.

Cultivation: Cabot Road

First item was a CUP for a cultivation development (33,200 s.f.) on the east side of Cabot Road (map). It will be a 2-story building. The Planning Commission had already approved an identical proposal for the parcel next door, so this one was even more of a slam dunk than the usual cultivation CPU. Approved 5-0. Construction will start in June, the developer said.

Cultivation: Desert Land Ventures

This is the third Really Big Cultivation proposal in DHS that I'm aware of. Really Big as in 123.4 acres, 13 parcels, 1.9 million s.f. of development, some streets, all infrastructure (estimated $30 million - just infrastructure), and it's all going into that blank space along I-10, west of Palm, east of Indian. The proposal is for more than marijuana. The developer plans a 150-room hotel, along with the usual sorts of commercial projects you see around a hotel along the interstate. The approximate location is shown in the aerial view below:
Desert Land Ventures aerial view

As a Really Big Project, it includes a specific plan, a vesting tentative tract map, and a development agreement.

They want to put a dispensary there too. The city has a list of 16 parties who have been approved to get (or try to get) a CUP for a dispensary. I believe we have 8 dispensaries open. One dispensary has been permitted behind the AM/PM station at Palm and I-10. There is some site preparation there, and I believe at least some of the roads have been paved. That leaves 7 parties who have not started any development and may not yet have gotten a CUP. The Desert Land Ventures developer (he's owned the site since 2006) did not want to have to get in bed with some dispensary owner that he doesn't know. No one suggested the alternative. He could buy out the CUP rights from one of those parties.

The specific plan is flexible so that the developer can determine which parts will be industrial and which commercial. City staff and the commissioners expressed the desire that there be no cultivation on the parcels that are adjacent to I-10. The developer who, BTW, is also developing the new San Diego airport that will be over by Otay Mesa (!!) says he understands and he wants his development to be top notch, so he wouldn't have put cultivation. Those parcels need to have businesses that attract people from the highway. Some of it could be ancillary marijuana businesses, like a bakery, a testing lab, whatever else I can't think of right now.

The Commissioners, recognizing the value of the site, said it would be a window onto Desert Hot Springs, so it needs to look really good. The developer agreed, saying it's in his interests to do just that.

The developer said this development will extend over years and nobody knows what's going to happen to cannabis in the future, and that's one reason for the flexibility in the specific plan.

The part of the site that is north of Varner Road extends into the MSHCP area, but it was said that development of 10% of the area within the MSHCP is permitted! I had never heard that before, and I'm sure there are more strings to it than simply wanting to build in the MSHCP. The developer said they might put solar or wind power there.

Varner Road, which goes through the project, is supposed to be paved to a width of six (6!) lanes. Both the developer and the commission agreed this was excessive to start with, since it just deadends and it will be years before six lanes are needed, so they're going to start with something less (to be negotiated with staff, unless the city council says different). Comparisons were drawn with the "Bridge To Nowhere" (the Alaska one, not the Los Angeles one). Some day (after your prince comes) 20th Avenue will also be paved coming east from Indian. It would make sense, IMO, to connect that with Varner.

Approved 5-0.

Cultivation: Collective Solutions

This is a CUP for a cultivation site of 22,176 s.f. total, in three buildings on 1.26 acres. It will be on currently unpaved 15th Avenue, between Little Morongo and Cabot Road. This will include two 10,000 s.f. greenhouses. There will be a temporary trailer, but that has to be out of there before August 13.

Approved 5-0.

Dispensaries: Special Dispensary Entitlements

Currently, our city ordinances define a dispensary (which must be located in a commercial zone) and cultivation (which must be located in an industrial zone). But what about baking? Tasting rooms? And very small scale dispensing, such as at a hotel? This ordinance attempts to address some of those issues.

It would define light manufacturing as any kind of production of cannabis products using only "chemical synthesis," by which they mean baking or infusing, but absolutely not any extraction.

A Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit would be created for light manufacturing, hotels that want to dispense cannabis, and cultivators who want to have a tasting room in their facility.

A cultivator's tasting room would be limited to offering samples of products produced on that site only. There can be no on-site sales and consumption; i.e., the tasting is free. Any sales must be "off-site," that is you carry it away with you...like a liquor store, where you can buy alcohol but can't consume it on premises. For existing cultivation facilities, the Director of Community Development would be able to approve the Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit in most cases.

Hotels could get a Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit if they want to dispense marijuana. Note that any hotel that serves alcohol cannot also dispense marijuana under California state law. Any sales at a hotel must be for on-site consumption only. No off-site sales. Just like a bar that serves alcohol. You can buy it and drink it, but you can't walk out the door with the glass in your hand (except in New Orleans). No cultivation or manufacturing would be permitted at a hotel.

A Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit would also allow light manufacturing in a commercial zone. The simple reason for this is that light manufacturing is not nearly as profitable as cultivation and light manufacturers cannot now afford the price of land in our industrial zones. Light manufacturing facilities that already have a CUP (there are some at the cultivation sites) can get a Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit with approval just by the Director of Community Development in most cases.

Gretta Carter, who represents some cultivators and other cannabis businesses, made a public comment. She said this ordinance is "about 90% there." She suggested that the commercial zone also accept lab testing facilities.

Ryan Fingerhut asked that the ordinance be delayed so that small improvements can be made in it.

Andrew Milks of Brown Dog dispensary said there are safe extraction methods that don't use flammable solvents. He would like "light extraction" to be permitted in commercial zones. He thinks dispensaries should have the right to some light manufacturing.

The Commissioners discussed the issue of intoxicated driving that might result from tasting rooms.

Approved 5-0 with some clarifications of the language in the ordinance.

permalink | February 16, 2018 at 09:48 PM | Comments (12)