BLYTHE LEGALIZED CANNABIS. HOPEFUL CANNABIS BUSINESSES CAME TO TOWN. A YEAR LATER, ONLY ONE HAS OPENED ITS DOORS.
Amy DiPierro, Palm Springs Desert Sun
For a segment of the population in Blythe, a farming town on the California-Arizona border, cannabis looked like the crop of the future.
The city of 19,486 was founded a century ago as a verdant agricultural hub. Today, farmers grow alfalfa, cotton and melons on the neat green squares of land that define the Palo Verde Valley.
But the population of the town is shrinking and the poverty rate is high. Blythe turned to pot two years ago, following the example of other inland communities in California, like Needles and Desert Hot Springs, which have each embraced legal marijuana as California prepared to regulate the sale of the drug to adults for the first time.
For a moment, Blythe was the buzz of the weed business. Land is cheap there and the city is equidistant from Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Forty cannabis businesses vied to put up a shingle in Blythe. Ten have city licenses. The largest proposal, a 2.5 million-square-foot industrial complex to grow and process weed called Palo Verde Center, likely would rank among the biggest campuses of its kind in North America if it gets built.
But the California cannabis industry has been off to a slow start since sales of adult-use marijuana debuted in January 2018, with tax revenue missing state projections and, at the local level, many cities choosing not to license cannabis businesses at all.
And Blythe’s cannabis industry hasn’t caught up to the vibrant pot business in the Coachella Valley to the east or Needles to the north. Two years after the city council decided to draft a city ordinance welcoming cannabis companies, only one company is open. The city’s two approved dispensaries are months away from their debuts. And lawsuits have stalled Palo Verde Center, the most ambitious cannabis real estate project in Blythe. It hasn’t even started construction.