Reefer Madness

Pittsburgh pot dealer Daniel Muessig is going to prison, thanks to President Biden’s broken promises.

Marc Gunther
4 min readMar 9, 2022


Daniel Muessig and his wife, Laura. Courtesy: Daniel Muessig

Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries sold nearly $900 million worth of marijuana last year. The publicly-traded company makes and sells cannabis products in 17 states and employs nearly 3,800 people.

Daniel Muessig sold marijuana, too. At least he did so until his “stash house” in Pittsburgh, PA, was raided in 2019. A 40-year-old former lawyer with no criminal record or history of violence, he’s headed to prison for five years.

This is madness.

In eighteen states, including CA, NY, IL and NJ, marijuana is sold legally to all adults. Cannabis is one of the US’s fastest growing businesses. The industry employs about 425,000 people.

Elsewhere, sellers can go to prison. This is a waste of human potential. It’s also a waste of tax dollars: It costs about $35,000 a year to incarcerate a federal prisoner, according to the justice department.

And to what end?

Muessig will suffer. His family will suffer. His many friends will suffer. His customers, meantime, will get their pot from whoever takes advantage of the the market opportunity to sell marijuana illegally in western Pennsylvania.

I wrote about Daniel Muessig for the website of Reason (“Free Minds and Free Markets”), a magazine I’ve read and admired for years. Daniel’s a colorful guy. He grew up in the Jewish enclave of Squirrel Hill, worked as a freestyle rapper after college and then, as a criminal defense attorney, created a brash, hilarious and viral YouTube commercial. “Trust me, I may have a law degree but I think like a criminal,” he said in the ad. Here’s my story for Reason.

Since the raid — the government says they found 404 pounds of marijuana on the site — Muessig has toned down his act.

“I’m a markedly different man,” he told U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, March 8.

Nothing he said in court was going to matter. Federal drug laws set mandatory minimum sentences for selling marijuana, depending on the amounts. These mandatory minimums strip from judges the ability to take into…



Marc Gunther

Reporting on psychedelics, tobacco, philanthropy, animal welfare, etc. Ex-Fortune. Words in The Guardian, NYTimes, WPost, Vox. Baseball fan. Runner.