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Coalinga City council votes to allow cannabis cultivation

Coalinga city council members took a bold step forward on Wednesday, moving to transform a city-owned prison into a marijuana cultivation center. The city invited a cannabis cultivation business to present its manufacturing plan.

The special workshop on cannabis manufacturing ended around 10:00p.m. The City Council went into a close meeting after that trying to decide what’s best for this community.

For years, the people in Coalinga have relied on petroleum field to thrive. Now they hope to strike it rich with a different kind of oil; cannabis oil.

“We need some kind of revenue, we’re hurting right now,” said Ron Ramsey, Coalinga mayor.

Since January, the City Council has been exploring the possibility of commercial cannabis cultivation. On Wednesday, the city invited Ocean Grown Extracts, a business based in California, to present a proposal.

Questions and concerns continued for several hours. One concerned resident said, “I’m more concerned about the young people in this town…”

Ocean grown is interesting in purchasing the property that used to be Claremont Custody Center. The vision is to turn that 77,000-square foot facility into a marijuana growing operation. Mayor Ramsey said the acquisition would help Coalinga recover from $3.2 million of bad debt. However, others think the city is only after the money.

Ramsey said, “We have a prison that is not being utilized. I mean we’ve talk to LA County, the state, trying to bring inmates back here, and it didn’t happen.”

“I think they are looking at this as a quick fix, and the problem with that is they won’t be able to stop because they will be so addicted to this revenue,” said Sheriff Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

The company laid out several benefits like at least 55 local jobs and the prison structure would provide extra security.

At the end of the day, the council voted 4-1 in favor of turning the prison into a cannabis cultivation facility.

Ramsey said, “I don’t want to wait until November and all these other cities jump into it tool. There’s a lot of cities hurting right now.”

The sale of the prison center is still being negotiated by the city. The final deal would only be approved once the ordnance passed. That process could take up to six months.