Jr. Gong speaks on patient testimonials and why #CannabisHeals
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and his brother, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, shot the video for Jr. Gong’s new single “Medication” at the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA. Once a correctional facility, it’s now the site of legal marijuana cultivation—part of the Ocean Grown cannabis corporation, co-owned by Jr. Gong. In the music video—directed by Nick Walker, produced by Christopher Salzgeber, and executive produced by Sheira Rees-Davies for Scheme Engine—footage of Bob Marley’s sons reveling in an ocean of fragrant ganja buds alternates with snippets of testimonials from patients who can verify the widespread belief that cannabis heals, because they know it for a fact, firsthand.
Today MASS APPEAL premieres seven stories of patients who have benefited from the use of cannabis, followed by exclusive commentary from Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. These voices must be heard in this time, when cuts to health care programs are on the way, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked congress to repeal protections against medical marijuana, when the senate is considering legislation that would give Sessions powers to escalate the federal war on drugs.
In April of last year, then Senator Sessions made the outrageous remark that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” This is a man who once said he was cool with the KKK until he learned that they smoked pot.
Now that Sessions is the U.S. Attorney General one can only hope that he will take a look at these videos and realize just how wrong he is. Here we see good people—writers, soldiers, children—whose health and well-being has been vastly improved by use of cannabis, an ancient herb whose healing properties have been touted for thousands of years —et which is classified under U.S. law as a dangerous substance with no health benefits, with only limited research allowed. Now that attitudes are starting to change there is still hope to harness the power of marijuana medication. Check the videos below, and then read Jr. Gong’s thoughts on the matter.
Stage-3 Colon Cancer: Sara Payan is the Director of Education for the Apothecarium, a San Francisco–based dispensary, and also serves as Vice Chair for the San Francisco Legalization Task Force. “I was really worried about losing my job if I used it [my cannabis card]. But I was also really worried about the drugs that I was gonna have to use… My chemo was really rough. I almost died twice.” A stage-three cancer survivor who had good results using medical marijuana during treatment, she went on to become an educator and advocate, spreading the word about the healing power of cannabis. “I am incredibly greedy,” she says. “I want all 24 hours of my day to mean something, and I finally found it in the weirdest of ways.”
Discoid Lupus Micah Fitzgerald is an actor who’s known for appearing it his series like Fear the Walking Dead and Westworld. In 1998 he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called discoid lupus. “They put about six doctors in the room and they came and explained to me that I was never gonna be able to be in the sun for the rest of my life,” he recalls. “You’re body’s allergic to the sun, and we don’t have anything to do for you. We could give you drugs, but honestly the drugs are not good for you.” Fitzgerald says he was terrified. “You’re trying to launch an acting career,” he says, “a guy who’s allergic to the sun, but you’re gonna move to Los Angeles?” But by smoking marijuana he finds he is able to function despite the symptoms of his disorder. “I’ve been able to survive 20 years without any additional medication from a pharmaceutical for my condition other than using medicinal marijuana,” he says. Fitzgerald is very clear that marijuana is not a cure-all for everything. “Like anything else if you abuse it and you don’t use it properly,” he says. Still he insists that cannabis has been unfairly stigmatized. “We deal with a lot of judgment as far as ‘this person’s a pothead or a weedhead or a dopehead.’ But I think if you take a look at some of the most creative people who’ve ever brought things to fruition and moved the world, many of them used marijuana as a conduit to get there. For me I don’t apologize for smoking. I’m glad that the laws are opening up and people are beginning to hear the truth about what it is, so many of us don’t have to live in judgment… We’re being criminalized for something that’s better than two of the products you have in every liquor store across this country.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder “One of the things about me, I’m always smiling,” says forty-year-old Michael Leo, who served 16 years in the Marine Corps. “Internally I’m dying. A lot of my pain is concealed.” He suffers severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of three combat deployments with Marine expeditionary units as a gunnery sergeant with over 100 KIAs. “A lot of my pain is concealed,” he says. “You don’t seek the treatment until the last moment.” He was prescribed 14 medications, seven at one time, and five as needed and two if you really need it. “I was a zombie,” he recalls. “When you take these medications it’s causing a secondary issue, so you’re helping one thing and hurting another.” He found a better alternative with cannabis, which is technically illegal for all service personnel. “All I need is cannabis and I can sleep, I can eat, I’m more social. There’s different types and ways I can use. Ways if I need to be more sleepy for insomnia if I have pain, and if I need to be high-functioning with the CBD affect. Cannabis is what treats everything that I have been diagnosed with, and more so.” As a Marine, he says he knows many individuals who did not break the rules and seek the benefits of cannabis. “Maybe if they had the ability to use,” he says, “maybe they wouldn’t have chose what they thought was the easy way out. Suicide is real,” he adds. “It’s big in our community.”
Torn Cornea: Brandon Bryant was living in New Orleans when he scratched the epithelial layer over his left cornea. Such injuries can heal quickly but since he didn’t go to the doctor his eye healed over some dirt. “They had to remove the dirt from my eye with tweezers while I was awake,” he recalls. “That sucked.” He ended up with a recurring injury that was “pain-killer resistant.” He used steroid ointments and the doctors told him he required radical laser surgery or he risked developing a scar to block his vision. After Hurricane Katrina he relocated to New York, where a “fancy doctor” recommended medical marijuana. She explained that cannabis reduces the pressure in the eye, the same reason it helps Glaucoma patients. “We’re talking about the kind of pain that you just can’t think through,” he says. “I’ve been injured, I’ve had lots of physical injuries. I know what pain’s like. This was a totally higher order of magnitude. I would have clawed the floorboards up if I knew there was something under there that would kill that pain. Smoking marijuana, you know, a bowl, was instant. I’d take a Vicodin or an Oxycontin and it would take a half an hour to just take the edge off the pain. I’d take a hit of just regular whatever somebody had in New Orleans and the pain would disappear in a minute—gone. I never looked back.” He also used marijuana to help him kick his dependency on opiates. “I would like to see people talk about medical cannabis the same way they talk about aspirin or getting a beer. I would like to see it freely available. Take a common sense approach. To the people who are standing in the way of that I would just ask ‘What are you afraid of?’”
Silas Tedesco & His Mom Ash
Acute Lympoblastic Leukemia: Since he was 19 months old, Silas Tedesco has been a cannabis patient. Back in 2013 he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” his mother Ash recalls. “I chose to use cannabis for him because I have seen cannabis work for so many different people in so many different instances.” For the first 24 days of his illness Silas was hospitalized and received chemotherapy with all the usual side effects. “He did have the nausea, the bone pain. He wasn’t walking. He had steroid pain. He wasn’t able to sleep,” his mother recalls. “Immediately when we started the cannabis oil he started taking steps again with eight days. He was able to start sleeping again. He started playing again. He was doing all the things that we needed him to do.” One particular type of chemotherapy resulted in seizures—as many as 30 in a day—but Silas’ mother was able to control the seizures with use of cannabis oil. “He’s eating and sleeping and he’s progressing and I tell it to anybody who’s listening, he’s run circles around me the entire way.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Brain Injury and Spinal Problems: Jake Scallan is the operations manager at Santa Cruz Veterans’ Alliance. He was medically retired and discharged from the Air Force due to post-traumatic stress, brain injury, and spinal problems. “I was really skittish, really alert, hyper-vigilance is what they say,” he recalls of his adjustment to civilian life. “I was having a lot of bad dreams, a lot of night terrors—and also a lot of pain.” After alienating many of his friends, he tried coping with alcohol and prescription drugs. “When you go to the V.A. for mental health they usually prescribe you a lot of anti-depressants,” he says. “You kind of build tolerances so you’re always switching pills. It doesn’t even really work, so you take more.” The situation only aggravated his anger and depression. “I tried taking my own life,” he said. “Pills don’t help… they only make it worse.” He found that medical cannabis gave him much better results. “It was a world of relief,” he said. “I eventually got off medications prescribed by the V.A. and solely medicate with cannabis.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Brain Injury and Spinal Problems Alan Burch was arrested for transporting just over 5 kilos, 10 pounds of marijuana and was locked up in the same prison that Damian Marley and his partners has now converted into a marijuana growing facility. “I did eight months just in the next dorm here,” he recalls. “It’s really ironic, a few short years I was doing time here for a marijuana offense and now they’re growing it in the next building over. I was sad at first. It brought back all the memories. I think I’ll leave here a better person, putting all this behind me.” Even more ironic, he is also a former member of the armed forces who was, until recently, taking loads of pills that were prescribed by the V.A. “My doctors told me the VA has huge contracts with pharmaceutical companies so it can push pills,” he says. “I started smoking for stress… I’m not strung out like I would be on pills. All I know is today I’m here and I’m healthy and I use medical cannabis.”
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Damian has been making mad moves of late, kicking it in Kingston with Jay Z and Sister Nancy, jetting off to perform in Ethiopia, and then back to touring Europe. We spoke by phone from Zurich. The video for his single “Roar” is coming soon. Meanwhile, he prepares for the July 17th release date of Stony Hill, the long-awaited follow up to Welcome to Jamrock.
Your timing is incredible on this project.
Right now the U.S. government is debating these old debates all over again, so it’s great for these voices to be heard right now.
What was your reaction when you first saw this footage?
Well I was actually there when we were shooting some of them. So I was able to actually see some of the people in person.
Again, you know how it go already. We always represent “The Healing of the Nation” as Rasta and Jamaican—our culture always had that slogan. When you really get to witness these things now, it’s amazing!
I wan’ tell you, even especially the variety of illnesses that it’s helping with. It’s been a few years now that we know that it helps with epilepsy. And of course we know say it always helps cancer patients with their appetite and stuff like that. But when you really see the broad range of things that it’s really proven to be beneficial for, it’s “Wow.”
Yeah. We always heard Peter Tosh singing about “It’s good for Glaucoma.”
Yeah, that again too. Word.
But now we are hearing about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and…
Crohn’s Disease and all kinda ting. Yeah man…
At this moment, people are making the argument that the laws which are now in place to protect medical use should be overturned because there is too much crime associated with this plant. Do you feel like herb causes crime?
No, and neither do I feel that the legalization of herb causes crime neither. I don’t believe that. They would have to show me.
I saw you and Ragga in the video for “Medication.” That building where the video was shot is such a powerful symbol.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah man, it’s another something else that we’re very proud of. Again, the symbolism of turning a prison into a grow room speaks for itself. And it’s not something that we planned. But Jah set it, so it is great.
Most definitely. We’re look forward to the release of your album, Stony Hill, which I believe is actually coming out on your birthday. That’s a fitting way to celebrate the earth strong.
Yeah man, for sure. [Laughs] The plan isn’t 100 percent confirmed as yet, but I think more than likely I’ll be in New York.
There’s been a lot of media attention around your recent trip home with JAY-Z. How did you enjoy that?
It was cool. It was good to be an ambassador for our culture at that given time and to spend some time with an artist who I’m a fan of for many years. It’s out in the news, so obviously you know what I’m talking about, me and Jay. It was cool. It was a nice experience. Unfortunately I had to cut my trip to Ethiopia a little bit short—cause I flew to Jamaica from Ethiopia. I was supposed to spend a few extra days out in Ethiopia. Unfortunately that got cut short because of having to take that trip. But you know, it was cool.
Is that the first you’ve been to Ethiopia since the birthday celebrations?
Yeah, it’s the first time, and it’s something I was very proud of. Because I went there really just to play a concert. It wasn’t really any celebration of any special event, more than just going to just go play a show there—which I think it great. Because I would really love to see us be able to tour Africa just like how I’m touring Europe now. That was really a step in the right direction for me. Caw we did go couple other places too: We did go Kenya, and South Africa. Couple likkle islands. It was a good venture out into Africa.
Yeah, I noticed that you marked the anniversary of Distant Relatives on your Instagram the other day.
I know you’ve had these African movements in mind for some time, so it’s great to see the manifestations of that plan. Any last words on the whole concept of these “Medication” videos before we go?
Well, I would just hope that these testimonials will encourage people to do some research and educate themselves a little bit more about the plant. As an advocate, right now, of course I do believe that people should be free to smoke recreationally as do what they want as grown adults. But really it’s more about being an advocate for the medical benefits of it—whether that be through smoking or through the CBD or eating it or whatever the case may be. A lot of the battles will be won through education.
Even scientists haven’t even educated themselves fully.
No, because we’ve just now able to do the research. That’s a good point. It would be a shame if they were to pull that rug out from underneath us and slow down the research. Because the research is showing promise. With the research we’ll be able to learn more. So that’s a big part of it.
More knowledge, more life, and more strength to you sir.
Give thanks, Rob.
High Times, the magazine that has chronicled the transformation of marijuana use from an underground vice to a major American business, said on Thursday that it had been acquired by a group of investors that includes Damian Marley, son of the reggae star Bob Marley.
The group, led by Adam Levin, the founder of the investment firm Oreva Capital, bought a controlling interest at a price that values the magazine at $70 million, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
In a news release, the new ownership group said it planned to expand the publication’s audience and its events business.
“I think most would agree it was not executing business at max potential under the legacy framework established by the founders,” Mr. Levin, who will become chief executive of High Times Holding Co., said in a statement. “We are going to build on the strong base they created to bring High Times from the authority in the counterculture movement to a modern media enterprise.”
The magazine, which in January moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, had previously been owned by the New York-based Trans High Corp.
Mr. Marley, a reggae artist like his father, noted that he had started reading High Times in high school. “It is now an honor to be a part of the High Times legacy that I’ve been a fan of for so many years,” he said in a statement.
The magazine was founded in 1974 by Tom Forcade as a subversive record of the marijuana counterculture. Whereas Playboy centerfolds displayed buxom women, High Times centerfolds displayed beautiful buds. It offered how-to instructions for growing at home, and even advice on best practices for smuggling marijuana.
Cannabusiness is booming. In November, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada decided through ballot measures to legalize recreational use, joining Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. More than 20 percent of Americans now live in states where marijuana use is legal.
A CBS News poll in April showed that 61 percent of Americans supported legalization. President Trump has said that he is “in favor of medical marijuana 100 percent” and that the issue should be left to the states.
In a statement, the company said the new ownership group would “review a backlog of deal opportunities that have accumulated as marijuana has become more mainstream.”
The company said it had 236,000 monthly print subscribers and a digital audience of more than 20 million unique visitors a month. But much of its revenue comes from events like the Cannabis Cup, a trade show that began in 1988 and has expanded to multiple locations.
Correction: June 2, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated, in one instance, the amount paid by the investor group that purchased High Times magazine. As stated elsewhere in the article, the group acquired a controlling stake that valued the magazine at $70 million; it did not pay $70 million. The error was repeated in a capsule summary.
A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2017, on Page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: High Times Is Sold for $70 Million to a Group That Includes a Son of Bob Marley.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
An investment group that includes legendary ganga guru Bob Marley’s son has bought a controlling interest in High Times, the magazine that for decades has separated the stems and seeds from the leaves when it comes to showing people the best ways to grow, roll and consume the finest blends of marijuana.
Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, whose forthcoming reggae album is appropriately titled “Stony Hill,” is one of 20 investors who announced Thursday they have acquired 60 percent interest in Trans-High Corp., owner of High Times, its digital platforms and its popular Cannabis Cup trade shows.
THC (the acronym is the same as that of marijuana’s key ingredient) will be renamed High Times Holding Co.
“It’s an exciting day,” said Adam Levin, the company’s new CEO. “We have really the largest brand in cannabis, really the trusted brand, that we’ve been able to acquire at a time when obviously legalization trends are burgeoning and the industry as a whole is exploding.”
The purchase price wasn’t revealed but Levin, whose Los Angeles-based investment firm, Oreva Capital, put the deal together, said the company is valued at $70 million.
With marijuana legal in some form in 26 states and the District of Columbia, Levin and his partners believe it’s the perfect time to acquire the company with a mainstream brand name and a colorful reputation.
They could be right, says Gabriel Kahn, an expert on changing media trends and a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“The marijuana business is increasingly becoming professionalized and mainstream,” Kahn said. “That opens up a space for a news outfit to lay claim to being the voice of the industry and establish credibility. Any publication that can pull that off can create a lasting business.”
Although High Times has competitors, Levin says he’s confident it will prevail because of its reputation.
Ellen Komp, deputy director of the California’s chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, agrees the magazine has credibility in the pothead community.
“I respect their reporting,” she said. “Their editors have been more aggressive about fact-checking than other cannabis publications.”
While many magazines have struggled in recent years, High Times says it has retained a loyal print subscriber base of more than 200,000 with millions more following it online.
A recent edition contains such consumer-friendly stories as where to find the most reasonably priced pot and how to prepare the tastiest edibles. Other stories offer tips on growing and pot-related political news.
Perhaps High Times‘ most lucrative source of income, however, is its Cannabis Cup trade shows. What began as a single, somewhat clandestine meeting in an Amsterdam hotel room in 1988 has grown to 11 events this year. One is scheduled for this weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area and one in Southern California in February attracted 25,000 people.
Levin sees expanding those shows to include such possible revenue sources as concerts and clothing lines.
That’s a dramatic change from the early years of a magazine founded in 1974 by Tom Forcade with seed money he’d made from selling drugs. In the early years High Times was often sold in the same plastic bags newsstands used to shield the covers of porn magazines.
After Forcade killed himself in 1978, The New York Times reported that staffers carried his cremated ashes to the top of New York’s World Trade Center and smoked them.
“It was much more of a crazy, burgeoning pot smuggler magazine when it originated,” Levin acknowledged Thursday.
But he added it’s become the trusted brand of cannabis lovers.
“We’re the Wine Aficionado of the cannabis industry,” he said, referring to the popular wine magazine.
Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
High Times, the magazine that for decades has been the go-to bible for backyard pot growers and cocktail party tokers has been sold to a group of investors that includes reggae musician and ganja guru Damian Marley.
The son of the late reggae superstar Bob Marley is one of 20 investors who acquired a 60 percent stake in High Times, its digital media platforms and its increasingly popular Cannabis Cup trade shows.
The purchase price wasn’t revealed but Adam Levin, whose Los Angeles-based investment firm, Oreva Capital, put together the deal, said the company is valued at $70 million.
Levin, whose company specializes in acquiring undervalued media properties, said he, Marley and other partners believe they have landed a gem.
Although other magazines have struggled, High Times‘ new owners say it has retained a loyal print subscriber base of more than 200,000 with millions more following it online. Perhaps its most lucrative source of income, however, is its Cannabis Cup trade shows at which prizes are awarded for the best buds.
What began as a single, somewhat clandestine meeting in an Amsterdam hotel room in 1988 has grown to 11 events last year with more planned for 2017. As many as 25,000 people attended one in Southern California in February.
As marijuana use becomes legal in more and more states, Levin sees those audiences growing, as well as opportunities for more branding of concerts, clothing and other sources of revenue.
It’s a dramatic change from the early years of the magazine that was founded in 1974 by former drug smuggler Tom Forcade and once sold at newsstands in the same opaque plastic bags used to shield the covers of porn magazines.
“It was much more of a crazy, burgeoning pot smuggler magazine when it originated,” Levin acknowledged Thursday.
He added, however, that it is now the trusted brand of cannabis lovers everywhere.
“We’re the Wine Aficionado of the cannabis industry,” he said, referring to the popular wine magazine.
THE REGGAE MUSICIAN IS OPENING THE RETAIL SPACE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH TRU CANNABIS.
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley today announced the opening of Stony Hill, a new weed dispensary he is opening in partnership with Colorado-based dispensary company Tru Cannabis. The new retail space, which opens next Thursday (Sept. 22), will feature a full line of cannabis-based retail products, including edibles, extracts and a variety of different strains.
Marley’s entry into the dispensary game marks the first time a major music artist has opened a pot retail space. “I didn’t know in my lifetime I’d be opening a dispensary,” Marley tells Billboard. “We’ve always been advocates of legalizing 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.”
Marley, 38, is the late Bob Marley‘s youngest son and personally helped develop and test the dispensary’s namesake and signature, Stony Hill, which is also the name of his fourth album due out next year. The name has a special place in Marley’s life.
“Stony Hill is a place in Jamaica I grew up so it has a lot of significance,” Marley says of the area in St. Andrew’s Parish near Kingston.
Though Marley won’t yet go into detail, the Grammy-winning artist says he has more cannabis business ventures to announce soon. Meanwhile he is hosting a brand launch party for the dispensary on Sept. 22 at Denver’s Field House.
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Stony Hill‘s new single “Nail Pon Cross” was just released and his new “Road to Stony Hill” fall club tour kicks off today (Sept. 16) at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall.
While Stony Hill obviously has a double meaning, the dispensary’s location near the home field of the Denver Broncos may also give the sports venue’s name a new dimension: Mile High Stadium.
Anybody who’s heard classic tunes like “Welcome to Jamrock” or Distant Relatives–his collaborative album with Nas–knows that Damian Marley handles his business on the microphone. Later this year he will release the highly anticipated solo album Stony Hill, building on a mighty musical legacy. But please overstand that Jr. Gong aka Gongzilla is putting in work on multiple levels.
In this new video interview, Bob Marley’s youngest son shares his thoughts on a variety of topics from finding the common ground amongst world religions to the power of speaking words as a way of manifesting visions into reality.
“What we need in reggae music is business visionaries,” he says. “We have a lot of creative, artistic visionaries.” Three years ago he launched the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, which sets sail again next month with an even bigger vessel than before. Earlier this month he announced a partnership with the company Ocean Grown Extracts, which recently acquired an abandoned prison in California. They are converting the prison into a ganja growery for medical use. The company has also entered a “joint venture” with the company Tru Cannabis to open a medical and recreational dispensary across the street from the NFL stadium in Denver—offering a new way to help keep Bronco tailgaters a “Mile High.”
“I don’t like when a man say ‘Boy, the struggle will never die,’” says Marley, speaking about his song “The Struggle Discontinues” which appears on the new album. “I’m working toward killing the struggle. Not killing people’s ambition to better themselves, but killing the feeling that you have to be a struggler.”
Reggae superstar Bob Marley liked to say that “herb is the healing of the nation”. Now his youngest son, Damian Marley, is putting that claim to the test with a marijuana venture that promises to transform a decaying California prison into a huge medical marijuana manufacturing plant.
It also promises to revitalize a depressed rural town that long depended on a prison economy, but is now turning to pot.
“It’s a statement,” Marley told the Guardian, “to grow herb in a place that used to contain prisoners locked up for herb.”
The business venture signals a growing confidence in the cannabis industry, which has been rapidly spreading across the country as a result of state referendums that are legalizing medical or recreational marijuana.
California, the first state in the US to approve medical marijuana in 1996, appears to be on the cusp of voting for full recreational legalization in a referendum in November.
Recreational weed is already legal in Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska, but California’s referendum is potentially hugely significant, opening up a new market in an economy that this week overtook the UK to become the fifth largest in the world.
It also comes as American politicians are working to roll back tough-on-crime policies that have for decades forced low-level drug offenders to serve lengthy sentences for nonviolent actions.
Against this backdrop, Marley’s project has emerged as a potent symbol of shifting views on pot and incarceration in American society.
The empty prison in Coalinga, California, has remained frozen in time since its closure in 2011. Behind the heavy doors of the solitary prison cells are small metal bed frames, thin mattresses, steel toilet bowls, and old shoes of inmates past.
Casey Dalton, co-owner of Ocean Grown Extracts, the company behind Marley’s project, toured the former prison with the Guardian.
The old dining room, she said, will be used for cannabis oil refinement and large dorm halls will be converted to plant cultivation centers.
Ocean Grown, which is manufacturing Marley’s new “Speak Life” cannabis products, will use the facility to sell products wholesale to dispensaries. Other rooms in the 77,000-square-foot facility eventually will be used for transportation, distribution, and testing operations. “This is a different kind of rehabilitation,” she said.
“Jails aren’t really rehabilitating people. They’re developing young criminals into more experienced criminals,” said Marley, who is also a world-renowned reggae artist. He said the marijuana factory would turn “a negative place with a negative vibe into something positive”.
Dan Dalton, Marley’s manager and Casey Dalton’s brother, said he also hoped the public would view the Coalinga project as a kind of protest of the criminal justice system. “This is symbolic and a big middle finger to the drug war and to a broken system that hasn’t worked for a long time now,” he said.
The concept of turning facilities that once incarcerated drug offenders to production plants for newly legalized marijuana is taking root elsewhere.
In a small desert town called Adelanto, 230 miles south of Coalinga, the transformation from prison economy to marijuana has been rapid, said Freddy Sayegh, a lawyer who brought cannabis projects to the city.
Officials have issued roughly 30 marijuana business licenses in the town, and the resulting economic boom has extended far beyond weed, with thousands of new jobs expected.
He said the city was once “the armpit” of the desert region. “Now, it’s become the jewel.”
In Coalinga, which is 60 miles from a major city and has a population of 17,000, marijuana has emerged as the solution to crippling debt and bankruptcy.
The Claremont custody center closed in 2011 when California began efforts to reduce its prison population, which has long contributed to the US having the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
The closure was financially devastating to Coalinga, which emerged in the 1890s after miners discovered a petroleum field.
Standing inside the dark prison entrance on a recent morning, city manager Marissa Trejo said the Claremont custody center had beds for more than 500 inmates and employed roughly 120 workers.
“Anything in Coalinga with over 50 jobs is considered a large employer.”
Next to her, dozens of keys to various prison wings were hanging in the abandoned security office, and old documents and supplies were scattered throughout the prison grounds.
By 2016, the city’s debt from the prison closure had ballooned to nearly $4m, and Trejo said there was no way to balance the budget without laying off half of the city’s workforce.
“We have no new money is coming in,” said Patrick Keough, the city’s mayor pro-tem. “It’s a doomsday recipe.”
When the city couldn’t find a private prison corporation to take over, it seemed Coalinga was out of options.
“I was going to have to sell my house and move,” said Shawn Deal, a 40-year-old resident who worked as a correctional officer at the prison. If the project is a success, he added, “it could save the town”.
When Ocean Grown approached Coalinga about the prison, it became apparent to city leaders that marijuana could be their key to prosperity – a natural plant that could eliminate their debt, provide new jobs, and revive the town for generations to come.
But it hasn’t been easy to convince residents that weed is their savior.
Coalinga is located in the heart of the conservative San Joaquin Valley, where highway signs celebrate Donald Trump and mock politicians for restricting agricultural water use during the drought.
Even faced with the harsh reality of Coalinga’s deficit, some residents have been wary about allowing cannabis within city limits.
“I don’t believe in marijuana,” said 51-year-old Kristin Welch who works for the school district. “It seems like they’re breaking the law.”
Cannabis remains illegal under US federal law and criminal prosecutions for pot have continued, even in states with legal weed. But Coalinga’s leaders and Ocean Grown have tried to persuade skeptical residents that the new operation will be safe and follow strict regulations.
In the wake of heated backlash, councilman Nathan Vosburg said he has advertised the imminent employment gains – 100 full-time jobs at the facility, plus a thousand more in construction and ancillary businesses.
“People here are literally begging for jobs,” he said.
Vosburg said he has also grown frustrated with criticisms of weed, noting that residents have no qualms about a store selling liquor and cigarettes, which are arguably more dangerous. On the contrary, he said, Ocean Grown will be making medicine.
“This is not giving somebody a handout,” said Marley. “This is actually helping people to help themselves.”
BOB MARLEY’S YOUNGEST SON, ALONG WITH BUSINESS PARTNER OCEAN GROWN EXTRACTS, HAS CREATED A POETIC METAPHOR AND MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS MODEL IN ONE.
Damian Marley has announced that he, in partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts, is converting a former 77,000 square foot 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,” says Marley, 38, noting the poetic justice of turning a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a cannabis cultivation facility. “If this [venture] helps people and it’s used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it’s a success.”
By that measure, the prison-to-pot farm initiative is already a triumph. With their purchase of the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA for $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.
The new business began “in a very organic way,” says Dan Dalton, Marley’s longtime manager. “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.”
Marley today also announced the introduction of Speak Life, a proprietary strain of cannabis he created with Ocean Grown. The strain is based on the company’s lauded OG Kush, but altered genetically with the help of a Ph.D trained chemist at who helped cultivate the unique breed.
“The OG has always been my favorite,” says Marley, who met with the chemist while making Speak Life. “When they introduced this strain of OG I really loved it and loved its consistency.” The bud is a hybrid made of 70 percent indica and 30 percent sativa, and is hand-watered and trimmed.
Marley and his partners are prepared for the “green rush” should California’s Proposition 64 — which would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use — pass in November, as the polls seem to indicate it will. And California isn’t alone in reconsidering marijuana’s legality, either. Voters in seven other states will choose whether to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana: Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada could approve the use of recreational; while Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will decide on legalizing medical marijuana, a status the plant has been assigned in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Marley’s Coalinga facility will begin producing oil extracts in sixty days, and by this January will harvest its first crop. But Marley, like America, isn’t limiting himself to California. Two weeks ago, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis, he also launched Stoney Hill, a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, just across from Mile High Stadium, along with a 30,000-square-foot grow space (pictured above), complete with RFID tags for each plant.
What makes Marley’s new business ventures unique is that none of it involves licensing deals, which he’s been offered in the past. In fact Marley and his team have invested both in TruCannabis and Ocean Grown — the latter of which is run by Marley’s manager Dan Dalton’s brother and sister Casey Dalton and Kelly Dalton.
Marley is cross-promoting his cannabis ventures with his music. Stony Hill, the name of that new Denver dispensary, is also the title of his fourth full-length album, set to be released in January (just in time for that first crop from Coalinga, too) on Republic Records. Speak Life, the name Marley’s new strain, also happens to be the name of a track from Stony Hill.
“I didn’t know it would happen this way,” says Marley, when asked if he thought weed’s legalization 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 ‘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.”
Stony Hill Corp. (OTCQB: STNY), a diversified company focused on the cannabis industry, is pleased to announce that its common shares have been approved to commence trading on the OTCQB Marketplace under the ticker symbol “STNY”.
As an OTCQB listed company Stony Hill Corp. will be required to be current in their reporting and undergo an annual verification and management certification process, thus insuring a high level of compliance and transparency.
Stony Hill Corp. has also obtained Depository Trust Company (DTC) eligibility for its common stock listed on the OTCQB Market. Securities that are eligible to be electronically cleared and settled through the DTC are considered “DTC eligible”. This electronic method of clearing securities facilitates the receipt of stock and cash, and thus accelerates the settlement process for investors.
About Stony Hill Corp.
Stony Hill Corp. (www.stonyhillcorp.com) is a diversified company focused on multiples areas of the cannabis, hemp and CBD industry. The Company is focused on select investment, branding, real estate, and partnership opportunities in the recreational, health and wellness, nutraceutical, and media industries.
Stony Hill has several strategic partnerships currently in place and is actively pursuing additional partnerships and other strategic growth opportunities.
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