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Coalinga Prison To Pot Farm Gets Green Light, Snag Over Energy Discovered

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio
The Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga is becoming a place for cannabis related businesses to thrive.

An old prison in Coalinga is getting a second life as a facility that deals with medical marijuana. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports even though the project has a green light there are hurdles still ahead.


The sale of the 77,000 square foot Claremont Custody Center from the City of Coalinga was finalized late last month for $4.1 million to Latchkey Pioneers LLC. The prison will hold a few cannabis related businesses including Reggae Artist Damian Marley’s partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts. The company will make cannabis oil.

“They have done a wonderful job rehabbing the facility," says Coalinga City Manager Marissa Trejo. "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."

"They said that they may have to build another substation in order to service the demand, but they weren't clear on that because they weren't sure what the demand is." - Marissa Trejo, City of Coalinga

 When finished there will be cultivation, manufacturing and delivery areas. Trejo says the sale brought the city close to being out of the red.

"We're estimating our general deficit to be between $4.3 and $4.8 million so that $4.1 million definitely   helps to offset it, but it doesn't completely wipe out our debt," Trejo says.

But there’s a catch when it comes to the project's energy needs from PG&E.  A meeting was held recently with anyone who would operate a cannabis related business in the city. 

“They said that they may have to build another substation in order to service the demand, but they weren't clear on that because they weren't sure what the demand is until all the companies submit their proposed usage plans," Trejo says. 

There’s talk of using solar to remedy some of the energy needs, but she says they’ll still need to tie into PG&E’s system. Two other companies are in the process of building cannabis related facilities near the old prison.

"There were two lots there and then we had 10 lots out in our industrial park and those either have sold or are in escrow," say Trejo. 

On top of all the new businesses, Coalinga residents recently passed a ballot measure to allow a single dispensary within city limits.

"The city itself took a big risk in allowing commercial marijuana operations within Coalinga, but we did so because we think it's going to be beneficial," Trejo says. "A majority of voters voted in support of a a dispensary so I think that not everyone in Coalinga may think that commercial marijuana operations are a good idea, but it looks like the majority of the people do."

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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