Former California Prison Gone To Pot?

A vacant California prison that once housed inmates, presumably some of whom were locked-up for marijuana crimes, could serve a surprisingly different function if one California marijuana company has its away. Ocean Grown Extracts, a cannabis concentrate producer in Southern California, wants to turn the defunct Claremont Custody Center into a marijuana grow and cannabis oil production center, the Fresno Bee reports.  

As unlikely as it sounds, Ocean Grown pitched the idea to the Coalinga mayor and city manager last month, and, according to the Bee, the city council supports the prison-to-pot proposal. Local residents, however, may be harder to convince: If Ocean Grown gets its way, Coalinga would become the first in the San Joaquin Valley to allow for medical marijuana.  

While the prison's inhabitants may change, the high-security aesthetic remains part of the company's pitch. To convince the Coalinga police chief—who spoke out against the council's January decision allowing marijuana operations in their town—of the plan's efficacy, Ocean Grown is promising security cameras linked to the police department, background checks and heavy security.

But keeping the prison a fortress is probably not Coalinga's highest priority. Arguably the most attractive element of the company's pitch to the conservative town includes a hefty $2 million payout in lease and tax payments to the city, as well as 100 full-time jobs with benefits, according to the Bee. (Marijuana legalization, which is on the November ballot in the state, could double that number, the report says.)  

If Coalinga and its leaders can be convinced to accept the pitch, the small mining town reliant on the oil industry for jobs could usher in a new economy, and it needs the cash. In 2014, Coalinga was reportedly $3.3 million in debt.

“People are hurting—the oil industry is losing jobs,” city council member and mayor pro tem Patrick Keough reportedly said at a meeting earlier this month. “We’re talking about 100 full-time jobs, and no dope in the streets.”

No dope in the streets, but prisons full of pot.

(Photo Courtesy of the Fresno Bee)

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