Damian Marley turning California prison into pot farm

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley performs during Hangout Music Festival on May 16, 2015 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley performs during Hangout Music Festival on May 16, 2015 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Bob Marley’s youngest son Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley has announced that he will convert a prison into a cannabis factory.

Billboard reports that the reggae artist has teamed up with the company Ocean Grown Extracts to turn a former 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,” Marley told Billboard, referring to the irony of converting a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a medical grow-op. “If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success.”

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The project will grow medical marijuana and produce oil extracts. Ocean Grown Extracts is run by the siblings of Marley’s longtime manager, Dan Dalton.

Dalton adds: “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.”

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Marley and his partners purchased the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, California for $4.1 million US (around $5.4 million CAD). They plan to generate 100 jobs and about $1 million in tax revenue for the economically challenged Central Valley town — which is roughly $3.3 million US in debt. The region is plagued by an ongoing, historic drought and descending oil prices, which have damaged the region’s traditional farming and oil industries.

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California’s Proposition 64 — which would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use — could pass in November, as polls seem to indicate.

Marley is very optimistic that marijuana will become legal in all 50 states.

“This was definitely something we were working towards for a long time, before I was even born,” he said. “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.”

Marley’s Coalinga facility will begin producing oil extracts in 60 days, and by January 2017 it will harvest its first crop.

This isn’t the first time Marley made headlines this year for his cannabis-related ventures.

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He has another cannabis dispensary in Denver, in partnership with TruCannabis, called Stony Hill. The 38-year-old titled his upcoming album after the facility, which he plans to release Oct. 28.