Most Affected: Dan Muessig, Sentenced Five to 80 Years

Dan Muessig’s only crime was selling cannabis, and he’s now serving time up to 80 years in federal prison thanks to being a public figure.
Muessig
Courtesy of Shutterstock

By the time you read this, Dan Muessig will have been sentenced to between five to 80 years in federal prison. 

Sentenced on March 8, 2022, Muessig faces an uncertain length of time in one of the U.S. federal prisons across the country. He finds himself in the predicament over two charges: conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cannabis. The Feds allege that he and his group moved between 220 and 880 pounds of pot in the Pittsburgh area. 

An Early Introduction to Legacy Cannabis

Muessig doesn’t deny his involvement in the Orange Box Crew, whose motto was “No Grows Just Bows.” He acknowledges having a history with pot dating back to his early days growing up in the Jewish, urban enclave of Squirrel Hill. Likening his upbringing to the movies Kids meets Goodfellas, Muessig said his youth and early adult life was filled with friends skateboarding and tagging, battle rapping and getting involved in pot. He went to the same high school that produced Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa just a few years later, Taylor Allderdice High School. 

He had been exposed to pot long before high school. “I grew up in nothing but people smoking weed, selling weed,” he told High Times six days before his sentencing. “There was always large-scale, organized cannabis trafficking in Squirrel Hill,” he said, adding that it was common to see pot sales going on. Eventually, he got asked to run favors for local legacy operators in Pittsburgh and, later on, in college at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He said, “Instead of being asked, ‘Hey kid, wash my car,’ it was, ‘Hey kid, run to the store and grab me some blunts.’” In time, Muessig and his crew would form what he described as a “legacy trap.” At the same time, his battle rap career was taking off. Known as Dos-Noun, Muessig traveled the world with his music while pot sales grew at home, so much so that he became a prominent name in the area’s underground scene, moving substantial amounts of pot. 

Along the way, he began to see the hardships of the legacy (i.e. illicit) market, witnessing people being indicted for their involvement as he further immersed himself. Post-undergrad, with music no longer sustaining him, he entered law school. In time, he passed the bar and had clearance to defend against drug charges and other crimes, including murder, burglary, and assault, calling laws arbitrary. 

“The weirdest thing I ever did was go to law school,” he said of his life experiences. 

In 2013, Muessig’s video advertisement went viral. The polarizing clip showed Muessig getting folks off for an array of crimes, ranging from pot to sex work to robbery. The hook that caught most was Muessig admitting, “I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal.”  

Courtesy of Dan Muessig

The Walls Come Crumbling In

In 2019, with his practice in the rearview and trap booming, the walls came crumbling in. A raid on the house led to two years of uncertainty until Muessig was charged. Unwilling to provide information against anyone in the operation, he was found guilty. Now facing a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison, Muessig could spend up to 80 years in prison for a nonviolent cannabis charge.

Muessig recalled what he thinks led to him and his group being involved in a federal investigation. He said that the group did their best to not draw attention to themselves or escalate into violence, adhering to a “no hard drugs” and “non-violence except in unquestionable cases of self-defense” policies over the years. While moving substantial weight, they believed that they could fly under the radar. 

Unconfirmed but confident, he believes the crew’s prospects changed as the surrounding area began to gentrify. He stated that the decision to ramp up arrests stemed from gentrification efforts, with arrests leading to families moving out of their communities once the bread winner was in prison. Muessig believes that those efforts focused on a massive drug operation based in nearby Braddock, PA, home to current state lieutenant governor and cannabis legalization proponent John Fetterman. He thinks Feds began to target the Orange Box Crew after a member of the Braddock-area group bought pot from Muessig’s operation via an intermediary. 

Muessig and his wife, Laura, had seen enough friends in the game go down, be it prison or murder. Laura, who met Dan on MySpace in 2003 and regularly attended legalization rallies in her free time, insisted Dan get out before it was too late. The couple had long-settled into a quiet life of foreign films and teetotaling, pot excluded. They were in the final stages of adopting a baby from South Korea by the summer of 2021.

But by 2019, after years of assembling the operation, Muessig didn’t want to let go of something he loved. That decision would lead to his indictment and their adoption hopes shuttered.

“I told my mom that she was going to be a grandmother again,” he said, adding that informing her those plans had changed was one of the hardest experiences so far. 

Muessig said he should’ve listened to the one he loved most, Laura. “I loved her more, but I should’ve listened to her more because she told me to pack it up,” he said. 

On May 24, 2019, the trap was raided, with 404 pounds seized. Muessig caught wind early and decided to get home after warning others. They remained at the house, opting to try and ride out the heat, but it did not work. When he got home to Laura, he told her what happened and they talked about the next steps, which involved bailing out crew members and planning for his own arrest. Once he told her the news, Muessig said he watched Laura die inside.

The family waited over two years to see if Muessig would eventually be charged. On August 23, 2021, he was indicted. All the while, he said Feds wanted him to flip, provide evidence, and likely receive a lesser sentence. That didn’t happen. Instead, Muessig pleaded guilty in November 2021. 

“The way that they came at me… I just refused,” he said. Now facing a possible decades-long sentence, he said prosecutors shouldn’t have indicted him and imposed a mandatory minimum sentence as a ploy for his compliance. 

Last Days of Freedom

Muessig admits he did the crime and should do some time, but the destruction of his family and possible length of the sentence do not fit the bill. He believes that additional factors, including his viral video and unwillingness to become a witness, are sealing his fate.

“I’m about to get sentenced to, at best, the five-year mandatory minimum,” he said, adding that pedophiles, murderers, and terrorists have received lesser sentences.

As the days count down, Muessig said he and his family haven’t done much. “We don’t do much because there’s no pleasure in doing anything,” he said.

Muessig
Courtesy of Dan Muessig

A Plea to President Biden

Once sentenced, Muessig won’t have the traditional appeal options due to his admission of guilt. Instead, he has to hope for President Joe Biden to take executive action of some kind. While waiting, he’s garnered the support of cannabis prisoner advocacy ventures including Freedom Grow, 40 Tons, and the Last Prisoner Project.

Muessig hopes to see more progressives hold the president to his commitment to take action on federal cannabis arrests and the more than 2,000 individuals in the federal system today. While waiting on any possible action, he implores supporters to learn and follow more about him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, where he will post via a proxy while sentenced. 

Though he hopes to gain exposure for his own case, Muessig closed the interview emphasizing the scores of other cannabis offenders still in or affected by drug sentences. Calling for the freedom of individuals like Bobby Cappelli, Luke Scarmazzo, Parker Coleman, John Wall and Mohammed Taher, he commends those that stood up to Feds and didn’t waver when offered lesser sentences in exchange for the lives of others or discrediting cannabis. 

Saying the cause goes beyond those that receive publicity, like himself, Muessig stated “It’s about every other person that had to face this alone.”

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