Prison site to pot farm

Damian Marley’s California Cannabis farm

Picture Editor - Sukey Richardson

By Lynsey Downie | @lynzeyz @Lynsey_BreatheN
Subedited by Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw

Youngest of the Marley’s gives old prison a new lease of life, making it the headquarters to the legal cannabis empire which used to incarcerate citizens for possessing, selling and growing marijuana. This business has been Central Valley towns salivation which has been economically-challenged by increased unemployment rates and damaged farming and oil industries.

Damian Marley is no stranger to success with his unique blend of reggae and hip-hop making him a Grammy award-winning artist. In 2016 Marley announced his plans to venture into the cannabis industry alongside Ocean Grown Extracts, the corporation. Ocean Grown Extracts is owned by Marley’s manager’s brother, Casey Dalton, and sister Kelly Dalton). The company purchased the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA. This prison reopened its doors in 2017.
“Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up,” Marley explains in his interview with Billboard magazine. “If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success.” The irony is significant. In the spirit of this, Ocean Grown has negotiated its contract terms with the City of Coalinga to allow the company to hire former felons. “We absolutely believe in redemption,” Casey Dalton said.

The 77,000 square foot property was purchased for $4.1 million and is used to cultivate, grow and deliver medicinal and recreational marijuana to state dispensaries. Ironically, the prison makes an ideal site to manufacture cannabis with old kitchen and dining rooms fit for production and growth, as well as, security functions such as a chain-link fence circling the property.

The opening of Marley’s business has been a beacon of light to the people of Coalinga. Since the closing of the prison in 2017, the council has accumulated a $3.3 million debt from unemployment benefit. This new venture, however, has generated 100 jobs, helping clear this five year build up.

At Speak Life (the farm), a proprietary strain of cannabis Marley created with Ocean Grown is produced. The strain is based on the company’s lauded OG Kush but is genetically altered. The bud is a hybrid. Much like Marley’s music and business ventures. Speak Life is also a track on Marley’s fourth studio album Stony Hill.
For his single Medication, Marley filmed a music video in Claremont Custody Center with his brother Stephen Marley. The video opens with testimonies from those who’ve been helped by the plant, such as a US sergeant who suffers from PTSD. Marley and his brother used the release as an opportunity to encourage viewers to share their testimonies on social-media by using the hashtag #cannabisheals. “Research takes time and practice to prove itself,” Marley tells GQ, “because people use the medicine, they can see the results. As we see the results, we see them having positive effects on people… Testimonials show that it is not about getting high or doing it for fun, but that cannabis is a medicine changing lives.”

Most of all, Marley wants to convey the science behind his message: “We have well-respected medical professionals and doctors saying that there is evidence of the benefits of these plants… Cannabis being illegal shunned research and the experience of seeing what the different benefits may be,” he says, again speaking of his experience in the states. Marley hopes to draw attention to studies that display how the plant medically benefits people in numerous ways.

In America, 29 states have legalised medicinal cannabis usage.

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