Cali Cannabis Transport to Maryland has 26-year-old Facing 15 Years
Insider reported that Jonathan Wall, a 26-year-old from Maryland, is under lock and key in a Baltimore maximum security prison while he waits on a trial for federal marijuana conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors claim that Wall and 10 others transported in excess of 1,000 kilograms of cannabis from Cali to Maryland over two years. If they are convicted, they face long-term sentences of up to 15 years in federal prison.
Wall explained to Insider that he was simply an opportunist, spotting a chance to earn a living. He’d dropped out of high school and spent some time couch-surfing before moving to Cali six years ago to become part of the cannabis industry. He’d been passionate about the growing space since his teenage years.
“There are so many people who dedicated and essentially donated their life to getting this plant to where it is today, on the verge of legalization,” Wall said from the detention facility. “Do I have to be the last person who is prosecuted for a product that’s making billions of dollars around the world?”
Marijuana laws deviate from state to state, and at the federal level, these laws can put offenders in prison for years. This is all despite the fact that some entrepreneurs are earning millions operating legally in the same space. Insider spoke with drug policy experts, who explained that without nationwide legalization, it’s likely people like Wall will continue to operate in the “gray area” of the legal system.
After his indictment in October 2019 on conspiracy charges, Wall’s lawyer, Jason Flores-Williams began working on the case. Wall knew some of the other people named in the indictment, but not everyone.
Wall had been working on launching a marijuana company in Cali as a cultivator. This was when he found out about the charges against him and left for Guatemala.
“It was just a moment of like, ‘I can’t believe this,’ and looking at the injustice of the prosecution and unequal way that laws are being applied, he split,” Flores-Williams explained to Insider. “So he went down to Guatemala and just started a food drive for people who were hungry.”
Eventually, Wall decided to turn himself in to the police. He boarded an LA-bound flight, and when he arrived on June 29, 2020, he was taken into custody by various law enforcement officers from several federal agencies.
“I was on the plane, on the tarmac. It was ridiculous how they brought on a whole military platoon to apprehend me,” Wall explained. “They knew I was coming in. I understood the process of what would happen, and they still thought it was necessary to bring in the Customs and Border Patrol, the DEA, US Marshals, all these different agencies.”
Now that Wall is in prison, his family is constantly worried about his safety. He was one of 150 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 last year at the facility, Flores-Williams said.
“They are emblematic of what so many people have faced in this country for generations,” he said. “This family is just completely torn apart because of this government’s focus on the drug war.”
Even as acceptance grows throughout the US and many states have passed legal access laws, federal law prohibits the drug.
Queen Adesuyi, the policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance, had this to say:
“People should not be in cages because of cannabis. It’s odd to have people sitting in cages because of marijuana while plenty of people are making a great profit in the cannabis industry and the industry itself is gonna be valued in the billions of dollars as reform continues to progress.”
Violations of marijuana law result in harsher penalties. This is why it’s crucial for drug policy advocates to continue the push for legalization at state AND federal levels.
Wall, if convicted, could receive a sentence exceeding that of some defendants imprisoned for rape or murder charges.
“Right now there is this profound inconsistency in this country,” Flores-Williams notes. “I go to court in Maryland, and then just 40 miles down the road you’ve got a 72,000 square foot warehouse that’s rented out for the next 20 years because someone was smart enough to buy it and convert it into a pot grow and rent it out.”
Until we change marijuana legality at the federal level, cases like Wall’s will continue popping up. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait and continue encouraging this progress as the cannabis industry expands as a gray area space.