Dan Muessig via Instagram

A Seat at the Table, and It May Be Yours

I write to you from a place where people die of diseases you would have believed to have been treated in your great-grandparent’s time. A place where we eat refuse, are counted like livestock, and sleep with knives. For breaking the same laws you do to make your comfortable and relatively unthreatened incomes, I have given the best years of my life to these fetid dungeons.

I have never seen my daughter in person, only on a $6000 cellphone that put me in 24-hour lockup for months on end. I have seen things the uninitiated could not comprehend, let alone survive. And I want to tell you a few things you may find disturbing or threatening. But I do not care.

For transparency’s sake, I am angry. I think you can gauge that. My seething rage at the inequities that have destroyed my life is not confined to cops, judges, and prosecutors. It also extends to you. Yes, you, sitting comfortably at the tables or dais in this lobbying conference, where you will hobnob performatively and then flit off to various restaurants, bars, and hotels to accomplish nothing of note or effect.

If you work in legal cannabis and you have not done prison time for cannabis, particularly as a professional advocate, corporate employee/executive, or a 501(c)(3) organization, then you need to implement provisions immediately to replace your workforce with those who were formerly incarcerated for cannabis, at least until the list of qualified candidates has been exhausted. If you are already doing so, I salute you and offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of my community.

Dan Muessig with Corvain Cooper, Chief Brand Ambassador, 40 Tons (Instagram)

I understand this is probably upsetting or even infuriating to hear. I also do not care how this lands, so long as it is landed. None of you would have your jobs were it not for us. We created the industry that you derive your lifestyles, safety, and security from. And most tellingly, you are beneficiaries of a corrupt bargain with an intransigent government where we lose our lives doing the same thing you profit from.

I ask you to look back on the plight of cannabis prisoners. Let us be frank. Cannabis will not be legal this year or next year federally. None of the federal prisoners, save a handful, are coming home until their sentences are over. At this point, a clear-eyed look at advocacy in the space would reveal that there is no way to help us until we are released.

And that is where the help fails. We are felons. Most of us are ruined. We bear the scarlet letter, the mark of Cain. Background checks are meaningless. A single Google search can reveal our incarceration, and then we are categorically excluded from the living wage economy. You are not getting us out of prison. And you cannot mollify us with commissary. We need good jobs that can support our families the day we come home. We need your jobs, in all honesty.

There is no justice to be gained by the law. There is solely economic justice. And with no justice, there can be no peace. I entreat you to do the hard work and employ those of us who need the work, no matter what it does to the unafflicted. We demand a seat at the table. We do not need web mentions or commissary. We need in. Help us. We demand it.

Daniel Muessig is a federal cannabis prisoner, sentenced to a five-year sentence in 2022. This op-ed will appear in the upcoming print edition of Cannabis & Tech Today.

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