Damian Marley Is Converting a California Prison into a Pot Farm: Exclusive
Billboard - By. Andy Gensler - 10/3/2016
Bob Marley's youngest son, along with business partner Ocean Grown Extracts, has created a poetic metaphor and multi-million dollar business model in one.
Damian Marley has announced that he, 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, CA for $4.1 million, Marley and his partners instantly relieved the economically-challenged Central Valley town of its roughly $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."
Marley today also announced the introduction of Speak Life, a proprietary strain of cannabis he created with Ocean Grown. The strain is based on the company's lauded OG Kush, but altered genetically with the help of a Ph.D trained chemist at who helped cultivate the unique breed.
"The OG has always been my favorite," says Marley, who met with the chemist while making Speak Life. "When they introduced this strain of OG I really loved it and loved its consistency." The bud is a hybrid made of 70 percent indica and 30 percent sativa, and is hand-watered and trimmed.
Marley and his partners are prepared for the "green rush" should California's Proposition 64 -- which would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use -- passes in November, as the polls seem to indicate. And California isn't alone in reconsidering marijuana's legality, either. Voters in seven other states will choose whether to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana -- Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada could approve the use of recreational pot; Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will decide on legalizing medical marijuana, which a status the plant has been assigned in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Marley's Coalinga facility will begin producing oil extracts in sixty days, and by this January will harvest its first crop. But Marley, like America, isn't limiting himself to California. Two weeks ago, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis, he also launched Stoney Hill, a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, just across from Mile High Stadium, along with a 30,000-square-foot grow space (pictured above), complete with RFID tags for each plant.
What makes Marley's new business ventures unique is that none of it involves licensing deals, which he's been offered in the past. In fact Marley and his team have invested both in TruCannabis and Ocean Grown -- the latter of which is run by Marley's manager Dan Dalton's brother and sister Casey Dalton and Kelly Dalton.
Marley is, of course, cross-promoting his cannabis ventures with his music. Stony Hill, the name of that new Denver dispensary, is also the title of his fourth full-length album, set to be released in January (just in time for that first crop from Coalinga, too) on Republic Records. Speak Life, the name Marley's new strain, also happens to be the name of a track from Stony Hill.
"I didn't know it would happen this way," says Marley, when asked if he'd considered weed's legalization to be possible in his lifetime. "This was definitely something we were working towards for a long time, before I was even born. There was Peter Tosh's 'Legalize It' and songs like that -- this is something our culture has been working towards. I was optimistic that it would one day be legal -- and now it is here."
Full-Grown Cannabis Plants Found In Prison Garden
Green Rush Daily - By. Drew Jameson - 08/12/2016
Prisoners at Fulham Correctional Center, a state-run prison in Australia, have taken their horticulture program to new heights. Using the prison’s “horticulture training program” as cover, the inmates had successfully grown 28 marijuana plants in the facility’s prison garden before the plants were discovered on Tuesday.
It took a team of sniffer dogs to discover the plants, which the prisoners had been growing right under guards’ noses. The plants, some nearly two feet tall, were initially found out on Tuesday this week, and the drug canines found more spread out across prison grounds on Wednesday.
It’s unknown how many prisoners were involved in the cannabis growing operation, or what consequences they will face for their actions. The situation has reportedly been handed over to police. One suspect has been identified so far. He’s a prisoner, and not someone involved in the horticultural training program.
An Embarrassing Blunder
Australian authorities are scratching their heads over the incident. They want to know how such a relatively large crop of marijuana could have been grown despite searches and supervision by correctional officers.
“It’s embarrassing,” she said on Australia’s morning news program, 3AW Mornings. “I am concerned about it.”
At Fulham Correctional Center, prisoners are responsible for maintaining prison grounds. It appears that they utilized this advantage along with their horticultural training to grow the contraband plants.
Fulham officials are currently conducting an investigation. The situation is raising further questions about what happens inside jails across the state.
No Small Crop
The cannabis crop was discovered in the Fulham Prison garden, which is a medium security prison owned and operated by the Corrections multinational company GeoGroup. The relatively looser security at this facility is one reason prisoners were able to grow such a large crop undetected.
The 28 or more plants, averaging 24 inches in height, would have produced a significant quantity of cannabis. Currently, officials are speculating that the plants were grown from seeds smuggled inside the prison walls.
Officials are still trying to determine what the prisoners planned to do with their crop. Did the inmates plan to smuggle the cannabis outside the prison gates, or were they hoping to use their crop inside the jail?
Australia’s Stance on Cannabis
It was on February 24 of this year, 2016 when Australia decided to legalize cannabis for medical use at the federal level. Politicians and advocates are still fighting to decriminalize and legalize recreational marijuana.
While the inmates involved in the cannabis grow were likely incarcerated on charges unrelated to marijuana, the fact that they were growing contraband substances inside the jail will likely lead to punitive consequences.
“In this case it was clear you didn’t intend to break the law, which is in a state of flux as we speak,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said during this afternoon’s sentencing hearing. “But the jury found you guilty. That’s what I’m stuck with.”
Eitzen imposed the least-possible jail term under the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is six months given Shupe’s criminal history, but then delayed the punishment if Shupe appeals, and comes up with a $5,000 bond. He also was ordered to avoid selling drugs to anyone.
“I think it’s funny that he may be the only person convicted for a dispensary, which may be legal in a week,” said defense attorney Frank Cikutovich, referring to efforts in Olympia to clarify the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. “I think it was a complete waste of resources as far as the county is concerned.”
Shupe had argued during last month’s trial that the state’s medical marijuana law enables dispensaries to supply doctor-approved marijuana patients, provided they serve just one patient at a time.
Prosecutors disputed that interpretation, arguing that the medical marijuana law, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1998, makes no provisions for commercial dispensaries. Jurors agreed with the prosecution.
The case was watched closely by authorities and dispensary operators alike, with both sides hoping that the jury would provide guidance for what many argue is a confusing state law.
Outside the courthouse, about two dozen marijuana advocates spent the afternoon protesting Spokane’s crackdown on medical pot dispensaries. Shupe — who has a doctor-issued medical marijuana card — joined them and smoked some marijuana before heading to court.
Shupe, who has a previous felony conviction for growing marijuana at his home in 2006, said he hopes to avoid prison time. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon related to a 2009 arrest.
Shupe credits what he calls the “military industrial complex” for keeping marijuana illegal, saying military officials are afraid no one will fight wars if marijuana is legal.
Protester Dennis Whited planned to attend Shupe’s sentencing. Whited owns the dispensary Medical Herb Providers. He began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident nearly two years ago.
He said he has no plans to close his dispensary but has been ordered out of his rental property on Freya Street after his landlord was warned by federal authorities about possible prosecution.
He said he’ll find a new building or will become a mobile dispensary.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Whited said.
Meanwhile, in Olympia, state lawmakers are attempting to provide greater clarity in the voter-approved medical marijuana law. A proposal to regulate pot farms and medical marijuana dispensaries has cleared each legislative chamber but backers are still trying to iron out minor differences in each version.
Without the legislative guidance, communities have taken different approaches to enforcement. Seattle-area police and prosecutors, for example, have made enforcement of medical marijuana their lowest priority and have let dispensaries operate openly without interference.
Shupe’s defense attorney, Frank Cikutovich, said his client sold marijuana only to doctor-approved medicinal users. Cikutovich said Shupe routinely kicked out patrons who tried to buy pot without proper authorization.