Quick Hits: California City Turns Prison Into Marijuana Grow


COALINGA, California – The Central California city of Coalinga has sold its empty prison to a marijuana company that will grow and process cannabis there. The abandoned Claremont Custody Center was sold to Ocean Grown Extracts for $4.1 million by the city, which had been struggling under almost $3.8 million in debt. The sale puts the city’s budget back into the black and was approved by the city council in a 4-1 vote. Residents who once resisted marijuana operations in their area have come around, thanks to some education about the nature of marijuana businesses, the adoption by California legislators of a statewide regulatory system, and the promise of up to 100 new jobs for the area. Referring to the prison-turned-pot-farm, Coalinga Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Keough told The Fresno Bee, “It’s like what the Grateful Dead said: ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been.’”

PHOENIX, Arizona – An Arizona judge has set August 12 as the date to hear a challenge by anti-marijuana campaigners to strike a legalization initiative from the November ballot. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry will hold the hearing concerning a suit from Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group made up of mostly law enforcement and rehab opposed to legalization. Attorney Brett Johnson claims that the summary of the initiative as one that “regulates marijuana like alcohol” is flawed. The initiative requires employers to prove workers were impaired by marijuana use before firing them, which Johnson says is quite different than how alcohol is treated. Johnson also points to the initiative’s license guarantees for existing medical marijuana dispensaries as differing from alcohol policy. Legalization spokesperson Kory Langhofer called Johnson’s examples “immaterial” and said the 100-word summary is in no way fraudulent.

DENVER, Colorado – The Colorado State Medical Board has suspended the licenses of four doctors over allegations they routinely recommended massive plant count limits for medical marijuana grows. The four doctors are accused of writing recommendations for over 1,500 patients that allow them up to 75 cannabis plants each. Six plants are the standard limit for medical marijuana patients in Colorado under the Constitution, but doctors may recommend more plants if “medically necessary”. Patient advocates argue that the sickest patients need greater limits to produce oils and tinctures, but law enforcement believes the large grows are merely cover for illicit marijuana trafficking activity. The state generally recommends investigation of doctors who make recommendations for more plants to over 30 percent of their medical marijuana patients.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Tallahassee grower and dispensary Trulieve will be the first medical marijuana facility in the state of Florida to open its doors for the sale of CBD oil. Florida is one of sixteen states, mostly in the South, that allow the use of a non-psychoactive cannabis oil for the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Florida’s Trulieve will be the only outlet for CBD oil in any of these states; while a few other states are working on providing access, most require the parents of the epileptic child to acquire the oil from other states like Colorado, then smuggle it back to their home state in violation of federal law. Another new Florida law called “Right to Try” will allow terminally-ill patients to use cannabis products with psychoactive THC; Trulieve says they’ll make those products available in August.

BOSTON, Massachusetts – A new poll shows that Massachusetts may be the least-likely of the five states voting to pass a marijuana legalization initiative. Gravis Marketing for Jobs First, a conservative political action committee, found that 51 percent of voters oppose Question 4, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Forty-one percent support the measure and another 9 percent are undecided. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, one of the nation’s most popular governors, is expected to win re-election in 2018, according to the poll. Baker was joined by the Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in publicly opposing the measure.

DENVER, Colorado – Mystery surrounds the sudden departure of Executive Director Mike Elliott from the Marijuana Industry Group. Elliott helped to craft the rules and regulations for the marijuana industry in the state of Colorado as his organization transitioned from the Medical Marijuana Industry Group to embracing full legalization. The incoming chair of the group refused to discuss “personnel issues” with reporters from the Denver Post.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on CannabisRadio.com, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland NORML.in 2015.