Born and raised in New York City, Weed Warrior Mario Ramos participated in the early incubation era of hip-hop – painting graffiti, breakdancing and consuming Cannabis from an early age. When the crack epidemic hit the city hard in the 1980s, Mario sought to escape the violence by joining the U.S. Military and serving 16 years in the Marines and as a Seabee in the Navy. “A lot of people around me were dying or going to jail,” he tells me. “And a friend of mine came around in his Naval uniform and I got the idea to join up!”
After an honorable discharge in 2004, Mario deployed the organizational skills he learned into running a hip-hop/graffiti store, coordinating numerous Cannabis events and starting his own brand called “I Bud You.” You’ve probably seen his ubiquitous stickers featuring the logo either in person or online, where his promotional skills are fully on display. He also pioneered the “weed-easy” seshes where vendors display their Cannabis products much like an urban farmer’s market for weed.
Mario’s abilities to perfect artist relations and curate VIP experiences led him to explore opportunities in the emerging legal Cannabis marketplace. Unfortunately, a visit to a potential event space in November 2017 in Morris County – which happened to have an unlicensed grow room attached – led to a three-year ordeal in the New Jersey criminal justice system and resulted in almost two years in jail. He’s currently serving 18 months on the Intensive Supervision Program and incredulously tells me, “Governor Murphy had vowed to make it legal within 100 days, so we were preparing to create a space for people to gather. This travesty could have happened to anyone!”
Upon being released in March of 2021, Mario quickly found his employability severely curtailed. Job interviews ended abruptly once his criminal status was revealed. Even with the new legal Cannabis landscape in New Jersey, his conviction and time served disqualified him for many of the jobs he was most suited for – leaving him wondering how to provide for himself and his family.
As a minority, a U.S. Veteran and victim of the drug war, Mario felt that he should be first in line for a license for a dispensary, cultivation and consumption lounge, but the reality wasn’t so simple. With the help of lawyer Jessica Gonzalez, (featured in this issue), he’s fighting for his deserved opportunities but, without the deep pockets of the MSO’s (Multi-State Operators), his struggle continues. Mario is currently working as a member of the research team at Cannabis PR firm Nison Co., serving as part of their re-entry hiring program in partnership with Last Prisoner Project.
At the end of the day, Weed Warrior Mario Ramos’ commitment and compassion remains unwavering.
“Our motto is ‘If you’re stuck in jail, we’re coming to get you out,’” he says. “I remember what it felt like to get letters and know that people were thinking of me and helping me, so now that’s what we do for those that are still inside. I don’t want to see any of our peaceful brothers and sisters locked up!”