Damian Marley announced on Monday his plans to buy out a California prison and turn it into a medicinal marijuana dispensary, the Atlanta Black Star reports.
The Claremont Custody Center located in Coalinga, California closed in June 2014, leaving the city with $3.3 million in debt.
Marley and a partner company Ocean Grown Extracts bought out the prison for $4.1 million, which will both alleviate the city of its debt and create at least 100 new jobs.
The symbolism of this move is not lost. In an interview with Billboard — which called the move an act of “poetic justice” — Marley said, “Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up.” The Atlanta Black Star notes that prisoners at the facility included non-violent drug offenders.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the cost of both state and local spending on the War on Drugs, from arrests to prison time has added up to an estimated $51 billion per year.
Further, those most likely to be arrested and incarcerated on minor drug offenses are black and Latino communities.
In a February 2016 report, the Drug Policy Alliance noted that, “Nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison and almost 60 percent of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.”
Marley’s plan to convert the prison into a medical marijuana dispensary is one way of changing the discussion regarding both the racial and economic implications of the U.S. War on Drugs over prior decades.
— Damian Marley (@damianmarley) October 6, 2016
The marijuana farm will be located in the 77,000-square-foot prison, and farming is scheduled to start in the coming weeks.
When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, Marley told Billboard “I didn’t know it would happen this way. This was definitely something we were working towards for a long time, before I was even born.”
Marley’s manager Dan Dalton added, “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.”
The first harvest is set to occur in January 2017.