West Coachella Valley set for marijuana 'green rush'
On a recent Thursday morning, a crowd gathered in the parking lot of a Desert Hot Springs gas station to welcome the latest new business to the struggling city.
Mayor Adam Sanchez stood in front of the shop's refurbished storefront and cut the ribbon with giant scissors — just as he would for a restaurant, tire store or hair salon — before talking about how perfectly Sun Grow would fit into Desert Hot Springs' healthy "spa city" image.
Sun Grow is the first permitted medical marijuana dispensary to open in Riverside County, outside of Palm Springs.
It's also the first shop to launch as part of a new wave of businesses coming to the western Coachella Valley, contributing to the fast-paced growth of legal marijuana businesses seen across the country.
At least a half dozen more local medical pot stores are expected to follow.
Known as the "Green Rush," a play on the Gold Rush that built California in the 19th century, legal marijuana has grown nationally into a $2.7 billion industry, with half of it in California, according to one industry report.
National cannabis sales for 2015 are expected to climb another 30 percent to $3.5 billion.
"The main draw of this industry is you can make a lot of money if you operate your business well," said Chris Walsh, managing editor of Marijuana Business Media, a company that conducts market research on the marijuana industry and publishes the online Marijuana Business Daily.
"It's not a guaranteed path to being a millionaire by any means," he cautioned.
But the dollars going in and out of a single dispensary can easily reach into the millions. Annual revenues for a store can range from $100,000 for a small operation in a rural area to tens of millions of dollars in a major city, Walsh said.
Sun Grow representatives declined to discuss revenue projections. But they but did say the dispensary was on pace to generate $9,000 in tax revenue for Desert Hot Springs in the first month.
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Boat With $3 Million Worth Of Marijuana Seized In Channel Islands
A panga boat stocked with nearly three tons of marijuana worth about $3 million was spotted in the Channel Islands, and three men on board -- all citizens of Mexico -- were arrested, authorities said Monday.
Alfonso Ramirez-Lopez, 40; Marco Montes-Lopez, 46; and Daniel Garcia-Sanchez, 32, are being held without bail on federal drug trafficking charges, according to U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
The boat was spotted about 12:40 p.m. Saturday near San Miguel Island by an off-duty officer with the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to a sworn affidavit by a DEA agent obtained by The Times.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Black Hawk helicopter was deployed to the island, about 45 miles southwest of Santa Barbara. After the three suspected smugglers were spotted, the helicopter landed and the men were arrested, according to the affidavit.
The three men told federal agents that they were from Sinaloa and that they had been at sea for three days, according to the affidavit.
The men were paid $1,000 before the trip, and after delivering the bales of marijuana they expected to receive an additional $3,000, according to the affidavit.
The men expected to land near Monterey or San Simeon, but after running low on fuel, they stopped at the island.
The 40-foot-long panga boat was towed to the U.S. Coast Guard’s base in San Pedro.
The trio will be arraigned on April 10 and are scheduled to appear in court on April 6 for a preliminary hearing.
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