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Desert Hot Springs wants to be the Napa Valley of weed

Photo by Matt Guilhem/KCRW.

Desert Hot Springs is the lone Coachella Valley community north of the 10 freeway. Sitting in the middle of the San Andreas Fault, the city has long been known for its mineral waters that are rich in lithium. Depending on where you are in town, the natural spring water rises to the surface either piping hot or quite chilly.

The Coachella Valley town of Desert Hot Springs has been on the map for generations as a wellness destination. The mineral waters underneath the town are famous for their curative properties.

While it’s been known as “the spa city” for its dozens of resorts, it’s looking to expand its portfolio. Marijuana is growing in fenced off, unmarked industrial buildings southwest of downtown in what until recently was wide open space.

Inside the grow operation at Desert Underground, the hum of fans is a constant in the 40 climate-controlled rooms used to cultivate strains of weed with names like “cereal milk,” “apple fritter,” and “banana split.”

Ethan Woods is Desert Underground’s CEO, and he sees a future where this unremarkable patch of desert becomes a destination.

“You know I see it potentially evolving as like a Napa or Sonoma Valley if everything comes together at the same time,” says Woods.


Desert Underground CEO and co-founder Ethan Woods arrived at the weed economy via a winding road. The East Coast native started on Wall Street, took a trip around the world studying the maritime spice routes, worked at a supply chain consulting firm, and then got into private equity before helping found the cannabis cultivation operation in 2017. Photo by Matt Guilhem/KCRW

Taking in a grow room full of pot plants is a little more difficult than wandering through a sun-drenched field of grape vines. Before stepping in, you have to put on scrubs, cover your shoes with booties, and be sprayed down with alcohol. It’s less a greenhouse than a NASA operation.

“Every single piece of data from this room gets tracked,” Woods says as he surveys hundreds of pot plants. “We do temps, we do humidities, the number of gallons, the pot size, the electrical conductivity of the coco. We’re looking at each different bad bug and each different good bug, bacteria, and fungi that goes in.”


Special lighting provides a necessary boost to Desert Underground’s cannabis crop, which is known for its potency. The company is a weed wholesaler that sells most of its harvest to celebrity-backed pot brands. However, the company recently launched its own line of loose-leaf cannabis items under the name Screaming Trumpets. Photo by Matt Guilhem/KCRW 

Bathed in special, far-red spectrum light as he makes his way through the room,Woods says his business is part of the green rush set off when California voters decriminalized cannabis.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Matt Guilhem on KCRW

Published: March 24, 2021

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