COALINGA, Calif. - Thanks to the passage of Proposition 64, business is booming for marijuana in Coalinga. Since the city allowed for commercial marijuana growth last year, purchases for industrial land have skyrocketed. There is no more land available. Coalinga is the only city in Fresno County that allows commercial growth of medical marijuana.
Dozens of years ago, it was mostly oil drilling that paid the bills around Coalinga. But today, the city is embracing a controversial industry that could bring millions.
Johanna Duval-Alvarez is a realtor and broker for Golden Hills Real Estate in Coalinga. She said, "I've never seen such a cash crop."
The crop she is referring to is marijuana. Duval-Alvarez said the industrial-zoned properties where the city has allowed for commerical cannabis growth is in such high demand, "Those are gone like hotcakes. There isn't much left!"
In fact, nothing is left. There is no more industrial land available for purchase in the city of Coalinga. Police Chief Michael Salvador stated, "The land prices for bare land skyrocketed immediately. Ten, fifteen times what they were originally valued at back last summer, and we've received a lot of development applications."
Salvador said Fortune 500 companies and wealthy investors are spending millions of dollars for land in Coalinga because it's significantly cheaper than the San Francisco Bay area or Los Angeles, and the city is centrally located in the state.
"Even at prices that we think are exorbitant for this kind of land, to them, it's nothing," said Salvador.
Duval-Alvarez said she has already sold two parcels of land, about a half-acre each for about $300,000 dollars. She said it was land that had been sitting on the market for years. The individual she sold to plans to produce and manufacture medical marijuana.
She said, "They've all gone above asking price. And there's multiple backup offers, you know, probably for each of those should somebody fall out. So, the demand's crazy!"
Mayor Nathan Vosburg said another motivation behind allowing commercial medical marijuana production is that companies have to pay a hefty square footage tax, a $400 dollar per employee fee, and a licensing fee that can cost upwards to $100,000 dollars a year. All the money goes into city's coffers. Last year, Reggae singer Bob Marley's youngest son spent about four-million dollars for the city's abandoned prison. That transaction helped get the city out of it's three-million dollar debt.
Vosburg said, "One of the most famous opposition remarks was that we're prostituting out our city, which that really hurt because that wasn't a fair approach I think."
Vosburg said he understands the federal government can change everything at a moment's notice, but he said if the marijuana industry fails, the city of Coalinga will not.
"We're not hanging our hats on this revenue completely, but we are going to use this industry to bring in other industries," ended Vosburg.