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Cannabis Tourism blooms in the Coachella Valley amid federal rescheduling discussions

The Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network brought together professionals and residents from all over the valley to promote cannabis tourism.

This comes a week after the federal government is considering rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. 

A rescheduling of cannabis would impact dispensaries and marijuana businesses even here in California, where it's already legal for medical and recreation use. 

We got a taste of the potential changes at Thursday's ‘Let’s Talk Cannabis Tourism’ event in Desert Hot Springs.

Roberto Hernandez works at 818 Brands Dispensary and attended the ‘Let’s Talk Cannabis Tourism’ conference to stay in the know when it comes to his industry.

"It's a big political piece, I would say, even maybe now for people who want to get reelected," said Hernandez.

In late April officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced they will be working to reclassify marijuana. 

The substance is currently classified as a Schedule I drug making it one of the most heavily regulated. 

"We're treated the same as heroin, cocaine and just anything that's really illicit," added Hernandez. "We are extremely, extremely heavily under different, laws that are constantly changing all the time."

The federal government is now working to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III substance. 

The classification could provide tax breaks for licensed cannabis businesses in California. 

"We can actually now market it a little bit more differently than what we have been in the past," said Hernandez.

The ‘Let’s Talk Cannabis Tourism' event also addressed changes in ordinances in valley cities like Desert Hot Springs.

I asked Brian Applegarth, Founder of Applegarth Strategies, "Has there been any legislation that has made it easier to make cannabis products accessible here in the valley?"

"Yeah. I think this recent movement by Desert Hot Springs is one. There's now a capability to have lounges and consumption spaces attached to cultivation or existing retail shops," said Applegarth.

Desert Hot Springs Mayor, Scott Matas admits the state and federal changes have been difficult to keep up with.

"It's been a roller coaster ride with cannabis obviously, throughout the state, legalizing it. Now the federal government talking about rescheduling it," said Mayor Matas.

Regardless, Desert Hot Springs is looking for ways to be cannabis friendly and further support the budding industry. 

"We're actually looking for opportunities from business owners to look at the tourist side of that. Does that mean a hotel, does it mean tasting rooms, does it mean walking tours? We're really going to hear what they have to say tonight and see if we can build some interest," said Matas.

Cannabis industry leaders argue that data shows an increasing trend between cannabis use among tourists. 

"People want to have a cannabis experience while on vacation, whether they're canna-curious or canna-wellness travelers or more cannabis connoisseurs," said Applegarth. "So being able to understand this new travel audience that exists and how to include that experience as part of this region's experience is going to be part of the magic going forward for the visit greater Palm Springs Brand."

Industry leaders say investment in cannabis could lead to expansion in profits.

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Bianca Ventura

Bianca Ventura joined KESQ News Channel 3 as a reporter in February 2022.


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