What could be more emblematic of the Drug War beating its swords into plowshares?
Until being shut down a decade ago, a sprawling state prison in Warwick, northwest of New York City, locked up men convicted of drug offenses and other crimes, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Now the town is turning what had been a medium-security prison in Orange County, New York, a bustling regional hub for growing and processing Cannabis. Entrepreneurs plan to cash in on the state’s move this spring to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. One can’t help but note that former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility was once stuffed to bursting in its 1980s heyday with Drug War prisoners.
Politicians have recruited seven Cannabis-related businesses to the Hudson Valley site. the facility still has reddish brick buildings where at one point nearly 1,000 men were caged. In March the town provided big tax incentives for Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries to buy 38 acres for a large weed cultivation and manufacturing facility.
Boosters say the new ventures will bring tax revenues and hundreds of good jobs. Anti-weed folks claim making the town a marijuana production center could “send children a message condoning drug use.”
From Big Prison To Big Marijuana?
Green Thumb is getting massive tax breaks to build its $155 million, 450,000-square-foot cultivation and production hub, reports Vice. Green Thumb is a major national player in the Cannabis space, worth $6.5 billion.
The town of Warwick lost 450 jobs back when the prison closed. Once the weed factory gets popping, Green Thumb promises to hire 175 people. The lowest-paid positions will start at $50,000 a year.
The company is getting $27 million worth of tax breaks over 15 years. That makes it, Vice reports, one of the most generous incentive packages ever offered to a weed company in the United States by a local government.
Warwick’s proximity to New York City’s huge customer base also made the site attractive to investors.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
While seeing local governments extend such warm welcomes to Cannabis companies is nice, it’s a two-edged sword.
Mom-and-pop growers across New York worry large companies — such as Green Thumb — will squeeze them out of the market. Even some fans of the project see risks ahead.
But Big Weed should not eat first, according to Morgan Fox. Fox is a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association. The NCIA is one of the oldest lobbies for the weed business in the U.S. “Incentives should first go to businesses with less access to capital and those owned by people disproportionately impacted by prohibition,” Fox said.