BY PETER HECHT
DESERT HOT SPRINGS
Two years ago, in this desolate Coachella Valley town surrounded by scraggly mesquite, voters heartily endorsed marijuana as a cure for their ailing economy. For decades, Desert Hot Springs had relied on its steaming mineral waters to lure tourists to local motels for healing baths and spa treatments. But the town of 28,000 mostly suffered. A third of its residents lived in poverty, and the city filed for municipal bankruptcy in 2001.
A housing bust seven years later deepened the fallout. So in 2014, 68 percent of Desert Hot Springs voters approved California’s first local initiative to authorize industrial cultivation of marijuana. With freeway connections to hundreds of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, the town set out to lure pot entrepreneurs to revive its industrial districts with new construction bursting with cannabis.
CULTIVATION IS GOING TO EXPLODE IN CALIFORNIA. WE’RE BEING PROACTIVE TO WHAT’S COMING DOWN THE PIPELINE. I’M A CONSERVATIVE. BUT I SAW AN OPPORTUNITY FOR JOBS AND REVENUES. IS IT BOLD? ABSOLUTELY. BUT I THINK IT’S PROMISING.
Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas