In our fight to end the drug war, there may be no greater symbolism than a prison being turned into a cannabis grow facility. That is likely to happen in Coalinga, where the city council voted 4-1 in favor of an ordinance to allow commercial cannabis cultivation at the empty Claremont Custody Center.
They also voted for ballot initiatives to let the citizens decide if the town should host cannabis dispensaries, and if all these operations should be taxed. Coalinga stands to join its fellow California town, Adelanto, in restoring freedom and medical advancement, as well as generating revenue.
As we reported in February, Adelanto, a former prison town, turned to cannabis cultivation to save its economy. David McPherson, who advises Adelanto and about 160 other cities on tapping into the cannabis market, was present at the Coalinga city council meeting to promote the plan.
McPherson reportedly drew gasps from the crowd when he confirmed that Adelanto’s revenue projections from cannabis facilities are more than their general fund. Taxation should not be the driving force behind legalization, but at least here it is helping to end one form of prohibition.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. Residents of Coalinga describe having to drive more than an hour to the nearest legal dispensary, or buying it from people selling out of their homes or cars.
Coalinga would not only relieve this burden on citizens and provide the highest quality medical cannabis products, but it would also create jobs. Ocean Grown Extracts, the company planning to use the former prison to grow cannabis for oil extract, would provide 55 jobs in the first year of business.
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While assuring council members that every part of their process is closely tracked, company President Casey Dalton-Schutt noted that the former prison is an ideal location.
She explained that every seed they plant has a bar code on it that is tracked throughout cultivation, manufacture and delivery. The packages sent out are locked and can only be opened by the receiving dispensary – not the delivery driver or other employees.
Dalton-Schutt said that Ocean Grown plans to purchase Claremont and would assume full liability for any problems with federal officials. Should it be raided – which she and McPherson believe to be extremely unlikely – the city would not incur a financial loss.
She added that Claremont was an ideal location. Many security measures – razor-wire fences, gates, security checkpoints, surveillance – are already in place. Coalinga itself is right off Interstate 5 and centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, she said.
Naturally, there were some residents at the council meeting who didn’t like the idea of their town growing and selling medical cannabis. One dissenter called the cannabis cultivation efforts a “sales pitch” that was “too good to be true.” She may not realize the potential that lies in being a pioneer in the cannabis cultivation industry.
Other residents were more enlightened. Mary Raine, wife to a councilman, said, “There are members of my family for whom medical marijuana has been a lifesaver. I’ve been fact-checking and reading everything my husband does. I’m a member of the faith community, and I am recommending this.”
Even police Chief Michael Salvador appears to be won over, saying, “My mission is to keep the citizens safe, and I believe I can do that if the council moves forward with Ocean Grown.”
Momentum is growing around the country to stop filling jails with non-violent drug offenders. One measure of progress would be more jails becoming empty. What an inspiring trend it would be to turn these places of state-sanctioned misery into grow centers for a miraculous therapeutic plant.