I Wanted to Join the Legal Cannabis Industry. Now I’m Sitting in Prison.

I’ve been incarcerated for the last 12 months at the Chesapeake Detention Facility, a supermax security lock up in Baltimore, Maryland, while awaiting my May 2022 trial in federal court. If convicted, I stand to be sentenced to anywhere from 10 years to life in prison without any possibility of parole.

The alleged offense that the federal government is squandering tax-payers’ money on confining and prosecuting me for is “conspiring to distribute cannabis” for transporting over 1,000 kilograms of cannabis from a state where it is legal, California, to a state where it is quasi-legal, Maryland, over the course of two years as part of my cannabis business venture.

I know what you’re thinking: “How can it be that the punishment for selling weed is so severe, especially in this day and age, with widespread decriminalization and cannabis medicinally or recreationally legal in the majority of states and territories that make up this country?” You’re quite justified in your skepticism. The states and local municipalities that make up this country have made great advancements in the liberation of the cannabis plant and in protecting the people who choose to use it.

But the federal government? They still classify cannabis as a “schedule I” controlled dangerous substance, meaning that it has “no medicinal value” and is “highly addictive.” It’s categorized in a class among heroin and crystal meth, and to give you an even greater understanding of the absurdity of the situation, the federal government classifies cocaine and Fentanyl in the lower severity categories, as schedule II and III drugs, respectively.

This is not some sort of archaic mistake left over from the days when Nancy Reagan equated supposed brain damage from cannabis use to the frying of an egg. No, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds an annual meeting where its top brass convene for the sole purpose of examining their controlled dangerous substance classification groups, adding new drugs to their scheduling categories, and reclassifying already scheduled substances to more appropriate sections based on new and relevant information regarding the nature or uses previously unknown for the substance.

How much public money has collectively gone toward this ceaseless crusade to imprison nonviolent, so-called “offenders” and militarize police forces all in the futile pursuit of trying to eradicate this plant? The few that benefit from this systemic fraud of the U.S. public will do anything to protect and perpetuate their scam, so I suppose it’s quite a boon to them that they currently have near-omnipotent control of the federal laws regarding the legal status of cannabis.

The U.S. has long ago been dubbed “the land of opportunity,” but with federal prohibition and potential prosecution looming over every state-licensed cannabis operation, who are the people who really prosper in the quasi-legal, state-sanctioned cannabis markets? Certainly not the proletarian. Due to federal illegality, it’s strictly forbidden for banks to assist or conduct business with cannabis ventures, so you can forget about any possibility of acquiring a small business loan. If you don’t already have deep pockets or access to large investment capital, it’s extremely difficult to establish oneself, let alone compete and succeed.

Could this be by design to ensure that the spoils of the emerging legal cannabis industry go to the affluent rather than find their way into the hands of those most marginalized in society whom federal prohibition has impacted most? What opportunities and incentives are being provided for the societal caste most affected by federal cannabis prohibition? Where’s a place at the table for those with cannabis charges who’ve spent years (if they were lucky) and decades on average wasting away in the bowels of the U.S. gulag only to come home marked and defiled by their felony record as they reenter society? After all, if it wasn’t for the cannabis underground ignoring the Harry Anslingers, Richard Nixons and Jeff Sessionses of the world by flouting their antiquated laws, there would be no “green rush,” the newest manifestation of the “American Dream,” luring new participants from far and wide.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to most that those with felony convictions are nearly universally banned from participation in the green rush, with the exception of those in Long Beach and Oakland, two California cities willing to provide licenses to the previously incarcerated. So when I think of guys like John Boehner, the former Republican House speaker who spent all of his time conspiring with his cronies to hamper then-President Barack Obama rather than spending time attempting to emancipate the cannabis plant, now sitting on the board of Acreage Holdings, one of the largest publicly traded cannabis companies in the world, while I may face permanent exclusion from partaking in the green rush because the government is still prosecuting those without any political clout for cannabis, my stomach can’t help but turn.

The only thing more ludicrous than corporate America’s attempts to monopolize the cannabis industry is the fact that the federal government still prosecutes U.S. citizens for alleged involvement in conspiring to distribute or cultivate the same ancient, spikey-leafed plant that companies are actively attempting to copyright individual strains of. But when the only difference separating an entrepreneurial pioneer on the cutting edge of industry ringing the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and a prisoner condemned to over a decade of his life to languish in a federal penitentiary is a greasy handshake and a nod from Uncle Sam, ludicrous doesn’t even begin to describe it.

It’s time for us to say “enough is enough” and rise up to demand an overhaul of the systemic nepotism we call our criminal “justice” system that by design persecutes our brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, all while simultaneously enriching the elite and enabling corporate America to further divide up our country among themselves.