Coalinga, California is on the map for more than the herd of distressed-looking cattle glimpsed briefly from your car window on Interstate-5 on the drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
This dusty Central Valley town is also the home of the former prison that’s being converted into a cannabis production facility — which is, as he recently revealed, co-owned by Damian Marley, Bob Marley’s youngest son.
The plan to convert a former prison in Coalinga into a grow-and-extraction complex has been in the works for months, and won approval from local legislators in July.
At that time, a company called Ocean Grown Extracts — using the O and the G from OG Kush — said it would purchase the prison from the cash-strapped town for $4.1 million.
The purchase saved the town, $3.8 million in debt, from bankruptcy, and also gave Coalinga the promise of new industry. For many years, the town relied on nearby oil fields; when those dried up, the local economic engine was Claremont Custody Center, the local prison; when the prison closed in 2011, there was really nothing left.
But Ocean Grown swooped in over the summer, and last week, Marley revealed himself to be a key investor in Ocean Grown’s project, as Billboard.com first reported. At the same time, Ocean Grown also unveiled a Damian Marley-approved strain of OG Kush, called Speak Life.
According to Billboard, the Ocean Grown weed factory will start making oil products within 60 days, and plans to harvest its first crop of indoor cannabis in January. Ocean Grown will ship finished cannabis from here to dispensaries around the state under the state’s new medical marijuana regulations — but will also be poised to do so for a recreational market, should Prop. 64 be approved by votes in November.
The former prison could employ as many as 100 people, where — as Marley is quick to point out — people once sat in jail cells for doing the exact same thing.
“It’s a statement,” Marley told the Guardian US, “to grow herb in a place that used to contain prisoners locked up for herb.”
Casey Dalton, Ocean Grown’s co-owner and Marley’s new partner, says the hallways where prisoners were housed will become grow rooms, and the prison’s old cafeteria will become the oil extraction lab.
Other parts of the prison will house Ocean Grown’s planned “transportation, distribution, and testing operations,” according to the Guardian.
For Coalinga — where people are “literally begging for jobs,” as one city councilman told the Guardian — the prison-to-pot movement is manna from heaven. Or, as Damian’s father might say, it’s the literal falling of Babylon.
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