Damian Marley, in partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts, is converting a former 77,000-square foot California State prison into a cannabis grow space that will cultivate medical marijuana for state dispensaries.
“Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up,” says Marley, 38, noting the poetic justice of turning a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a cannabis cultivation facility. “If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success.”
By that measure, the prison-to-pot farm initiative is already a triumph. With their purchase of the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, California for US$4.1 million, Marley and his partners instantly relieved the economically-challenged Central Valley town of its roughly US$3.3 million debt. The venture will also generate 100 jobs – in an economically stagnant region plagued by an ongoing, historic drought and descending oil prices, both of which have damaged the region’s traditional farming and oil industries – and will generate an estimated million dollars in annual tax revenues for Coalinga.
The new business began “in a very organic way,” says Dan Dalton, Marley’s longtime manager. “Cannabis is something that’s around Damian every day with friends, family and with his Rastafarian faith. We’ve watched people who have sacrificed their lives for it. That injustice has motivated us to be advocates as well as knowing that there are healing properties in cannabis.”