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Green Rush! Damian Marley Converts California Prison Into Marijuana Farm

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2016 | 12:12 AM
Damian Marley

Reggae music has long been one of the world genres that has been closely associated with the Rastafarian religion, advocating for the use of marijuana as something beneficial to health and also as a sacred sacrament.

The Marley family, in particular, have undertaken international ventures, using their notoriety to advance the marijuana industry in States that have, to varying degrees, relaxed their views on the use of the plant and it's extracts for recreational or medicinal use.

"Damian Marley, along with business partner Ocean Grown Extracts, has created a poetic metaphor and multi-million dollar business model in one," wrote Andy Gensler in a Billboard exclusive published on October 3.

"Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up," said Marley in the exclusive interview, noting the poetic justice of turning a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a cannabis cultivation facility.

The 38-year-old reggae star, is converting a former 77,000 square foot California State prison, into a cannabis grow space, that will cultivate medical marijuana for State dispensaries.

Gensler writes that with their purchase of the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, California for US$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.

Marley and his partners are prepared for the "green rush" should California's Proposition 64, which would legalise cannabis for adult recreational use, passes in November, as the polls seem to indicate.

This news follows a two-week old report of the youngest son of Bob Marley, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis, also opened Stony Hill, a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, Colorado, along with a 30,000-square-foot grow space.

Marley personally helped develop and test the dispensary's namesake and signature, Stony Hill, which is also the name of his fourth album and has a special place in the artiste's life.

"Stony Hill is a place in Jamaica I grew up, so it has a lot of significance," Marley said.

"I didn't know in my lifetime I'd be opening a dispensary," Marley told Billboard in a September 16 exclusive interview (about the opening of the dispensary). "We've always been advocates of legalising marijuana and we always had the hope in our lifetime that we'd be involved in something like this, but I didn't predict this would happen."

"I didn't know it would happen this way," says Marley, when asked if he had considered weed's legalisation 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 Legalise 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."