At first glance, Desert Hot Springs doesn’t look like the center of California’s sustainable cannabis movement. As the name suggests, it’s a flat, sandy town of 28,000 that greets drivers as they make their way out to the Coachella Valley or Joshua Tree. The weather is hot and unforgiving.
It also happens to be the first Southern California municipality that legalized large-scale medical marijuana cultivation.
After city leaders approved the law in 2014, the rush of commercial capital to the area was almost instantaneous. Tenured developer Adrian Sedlin’s search for large parcels of land to grow ultra-premium product brought him here with similar grand visions. His company, Canndescent, opened the city’s first growing facility last September – a 9600 square foot warehouse producing more than 200 pounds of product a month. “We retrofitted the entire building,” Sedlin says.
He’s talking about a state-of-the-art water clarification system they added to recycle the precious California water supply—the area gets only 5.7 inches of rain per year. The process filters impurities and dirt out of the water before it’s released into the sewer system, essentially making it cleaner than when it arrived through the pipes. Although Sedlin and his team have set a high standard for growing in a booming region, what’s coming next will raise the bar all over again.
Next month, Canndescent will complete $675,000 worth of solar panel additions to their existing building, producing around 30 percent of the warehouse’s total energy needs, according to CFO Tom DiGiovanni. To meet building code, the panels are positioned over the adjoining parking lots and double as shade from the brutal desert sun.
They’re bringing this solar template to new construction, too. Canndescent is building an 80,000 square foot grow space from the ground up that will combine propane and solar power in a co-generation method. DiGiovanni projects the system will offset 65-70 percent of their power needs. In some situations, it can operate independently of the desert’s expensive power grid. “We won’t be tapping [into] the grid very much,” Sedlin says.
Sedlin feels Canndescent has a duty to be an environmentally responsible producer, and that their customers will be willing to pay more to support that goal. Data says he’s right. According to Monocle Research’s RED BOMBr cannabis arm, 49 percent of California consumers are willing to pay more for cannabis grown using environmentally friendly methods.
Creating a nascent sustainable system has given Canndescent a head start over the incoming wave of producers once legalization takes full effect. Sedlin has already given tours of their existing facility to a variety of government agencies, from Los Angeles County to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. They’re proud to show it off.
“When you do it right in a regulated environment, people respond to it,” Sedlin says about the positive reaction he’s received so far. He added that they’re already following Colorado’s tough guidelines “from seed to sale” in preparation for anything new that comes up when California’s market opens.
The biggest challenge they’ll face going forward is matching the significant funding they’ve already achieved. At press time, they recently completed a $6.5 million round, mostly to help develop these and two other projects on tap in the desert. “Because of the relationship between the cannabis industry and banks, we’re raising our funds from existing investors,” he says.
Between their investors and the veteran leadership at the helm, Canndescent is on its way to becoming a state – and national – model in responsible cannabis cultivation. This fiery hotbed off Interstate 10 is set to become a hub of ingenuity for indoor agricultural growth as a whole.