This California Town is Turning a Prison Into a Pot Farm - Culture | MERRY JANE
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This California Town is Turning a Prison Into a Pot Farm

Coalinga City Council plans to turn an old prison into a marijuana grow operation.

by Tyler Koslow

Although nearly half of the states in the United States—to some degree or another—have either medicinally legalized or decriminalized marijuana, there is still a massive issue with marijuana arrests in this country.

In 2014, nearly 701,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses, 90% of which were only due to possession.

But in one California town, called Coalinga, their City Council has decided to take a radical move that probably has the DEA red-faced and steaming from the ears.

The council, in March, gathered to vote on the prospect of turning a city-owned prison into a marijuana manufacturing plant.

In a town that has long relied on their petroleum fields to survive, Coalinga is looking to move towards a “greener” way of self-sustainability.

To do so, the City Council invited the California-based cannabis business Ocean Grown Extracts to propose their case for the purchase of what was once the Claremont Custody Center, which is a 77,000-square foot facility that Ocean Grown Extracts hopes to transform into a marijuana grow operation.

They're currently in $3.2 million of debt, much of which Coalinga’s mayor Ron Ramsey feels can be alleviated by transforming their old prison into a cannabis cultivation center.

According to Ocean Grown Extracts proposal, the marijuana facility would create about 55 local jobs, and the operation itself would already be safe and secure, due to the fact that the facility once operated as a prison.

Ocean Grown Extracts must have been an adequate presentation, because the council ended up voting in favor of turning the unused property into a grow operation by a 4-1 count.

Although a majority of the Coaling City Council members are all for the plan, there is some unsurprising opposition coming from Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

Since she can’t really make the argument that marijuana is addictive, she is instead taking aim at the fact the city might become too dependent on the revenue coming from the grow operation.  

"I think they are looking at this as a quick fix, and the problem with that is they won't be able to stop because they will be so addicted to this revenue," Sheriff Mims said.

This isn’t the first time the city of Coalinga, which resides in Fresno County, has clashed with Mims over marijuana.

In fact, the city has been a sort of bastion for the cannabis movement within the county.

Back in January, much to the dismay of the Sheriff, Coalinga was the first city in Fresno County to allow marijuana dispensaries to open their doors.

Though the council has voted in favor, the city is still in the midst of negotiating a sale of the retired prison facility, and will be officially approved only once the ordnance is fully passed, which could take approximately six months.

If Ocean Grown Extracts is fully approved for their planned operation, they could potentially help Coalinga bring in around $2 million in revenue per year.

Though they are facing some strong opposition from Sheriff Mims and a handful of other concerned residents, this move could be as symbolic for a cannabis movement as it is profitable for Coalinga.

By turning a prison facility into a marijuana grow operation, perhaps we can steer conversation towards getting citizens out of jail for pot possession, and growing the number of jobs instead of people incarcerated.


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Tyler Koslow is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with an intensive focus on technology, music, pop culture, and of course, cannabis and its impending legalization.



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