I-Team goes in-depth on the first month of legal pot in valley

Are cities & companies cashing in?

In-depth look at the first month of pot

COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. - The start of 2018 has been busy for Robert Van Roo and others at Palm Springs Safe Access, one of the first dispensaries in California to open for recreational cannabis sales on New Year's Day. 

"1,500 new people have walked through the door," Van Roo said. "People are coming in here in generally larger groups. We see families coming in. Husbands and wives, sometimes with their kids."

Check Out More I-Team Investigations

The same goes for Kenneth Churchill at West Coast Cannabis Club in Cathedral City and Julie Montante at PSA Organica in Palm Springs, who've also seen more people walk in since recreational sales were rolled out. 

"We were sitting a little under 100 people, probably close to 75 people a day when it was medical, and we're well over 200 people a day now," Churchill said. "And it hasn't shown any sign of slowing down."

All three shops said their customer count isn't the only thing that's higher.

Their profits are also seeing a spike as well. 

"We've had four times as many customer transactions this month, as we did for the month prior, and five times in sales," Churchill said. "Not only did we have more people coming in, but they were even spending a little bit more."

Montante said they've seen at least a 15 percent rise in profits -- while Van Roo said their sales have doubled in one month.

"We're meeting all new people that are very curious, they're happy to be able to come into a dispensary, and be able to look without having to be medical now," Montante said. "We're getting a lot of adults. We're getting a lot of the 50, 60, 70-year-olds. We've had 90-year-olds in. We're really excited that they take that extra leap to want to learn about alternative medicine."

According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), since New Year's Day, more than 200 temporary adult-use retailer licenses have been issued throughout California.

17 or roughly eight percent of those licenses are in the Coachella Valley in Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, and Palm Springs. 

So what's next for cities?

Palm Springs city leaders said they're now taking applications for further business, including cannabis lounges. 

"Think of a bar, but there's no alcohol," Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors said. "Instead, there are edible cannabis products."

However, one issue dispensaries said has been a limited number of licensed distributors. 

"If there's only five people who have those licenses for distributing, then you're targeted down to all of the product in California has to come from one of those five people," Churchill said. "Which, as you could imagine, is bad for pricing and bad for competition."

Another has been taxes. 

In Palm Springs, taxes include 15 percent for the state, 10 percent for the city and an 8.75 city sales tax. 

"The state needs to be able to regulate things, the City of Palm Springs needs to be able to regulate things, and that costs money," Van Roo said. 

Agencies like Desert Hot Springs Police have been keying in on pot DUIs, arresting four people in December and January.

Police Chief Dale Mondary said they're treating cannabis the same as alcohol. 

"With the DUI (for) alcohol, we have a known standard," Mondary said. "We know that .08 is the presumptive level. We don't have that with marijuana. We don't know how many nanograms of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in someone's system is going to be the level that it's going to be presumed they're under the influence."

But many are now looking ahead preparing for the next seeds to be sowed. 

"It's an awesome, exciting time, and I don't want to lose that momentum we've got going," Churchill said. 

The sales tax in Palm Springs is expected to go up another half-percent to 9.25 percent in April. 

In the coming months, shop owners said they want to open marijuana lounges and expand business to other valley cities, like Palm Desert.

comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular Stories

Photo Galleries