Checking in on Damian Marley’s cannabis farm in a California jail

Damian Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, is reaping some cash from his multimillion-dollar investment in an old prison in California which he converted into a cannabis farm.

The cannabis advocate and partnering company, Ocean Grown Extracts, purchased the 77,000 square foot Claremont Custody Center – which was shut down in 2011 – from the City of Coalinga in 2016 for $4.1 million dollars.

They are cultivating medical marijuana for state dispensaries as well as cannabis oils. The business is expected to bring 100 new jobs and annual tax revenue of over $1 million to the city which is struggling financially.

In January 2017, Coalinga City Manager Marissa Trejo told local news media Valley Public Radio that the prison had been rehabilitated and they were yet to start cultivation, manufacturing, and delivery.

“They have done a wonderful job rehabbing the facility. It no longer looks like a prison from the inside and of course, it’s very secure. It’s decorated a lot nicer than it was when it was a prison,” she said.

The city allowed commercial marijuana operations to clear their debts and develop their facilities. Last year, the residents voted to allow a single cannabis retail facility that will dispense the herb.

Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are legal in California, but for Damian Marley, growing cannabis is a part of his culture as a Rasta.

“Of course herb is a big part of our culture for Rastas and Jamaicans and all of that, and we’ve always advocated for it to be legal … If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success,” 39-year-old Marley told Vice in a 2016 interview.

Damian Marley also launched a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in Denver, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis. The facility which is just across from Mile High Stadium has a 30,000-square-foot grow space complete with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags for each plant.   

Here’s Damian Marley’s music video for his song Medication featuring his brother Stephen Marley. It was shot at the prison cannabis farm.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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