by M.O.I. JR Valrey
It has been 55 years since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was set in place to obliterate the Jim Crow laws in the U.S. that were implemented after chattel slavery to legally keep Black people in their place as second class citizens in this so-called democracy. In more than half a century, has equity, equality and/or justice been attained?
Currently, Quawntay Adams has been sitting in a federal correctional facility aka concentration camp cell for 16 years, with another 19 years to go on a marijuana case, although on May 31, 2019, the state of Illinois, which is where he was arrested, passed HB 1438 into law, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and its sale. Also, the U.S. House of Representatives in the last couple of days has passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, paving the way for marijuana to be legalized federally.
Now that people are allowed to profit from the herb, will the people who were involved in the illegal commerce be released due to the fact that the laws and society’s views en masse are changing? Who is benefitting from the new U.S. Green Rush?
Here is Quawntay Adams in his own words from behind enemy lines talking about his case, his views on being a prisoner of the war on drugs/Black community, and his views on the emerging cannabis industry. Stay tuned.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about the circumstances surrounding your arrest? What city were you arrested in? When?
Quawntay Adams: I was arrested Jan. 23, 2004, at a truck stop in East St. Louis, Illinois. I was supposed to be picking up a load of marijuana that was sent from the border town of McAllen, Texas. The people delivering the marijuana turned out to be undercover agents. They secured the weed in a caged cargo compartment of a U-Haul van and disabled the van so that it couldn’t start. When I arrived, I was given the key to the ignition of the van (not to the cargo compartment). When I got inside the van and attempted to start it, the agents closed in and placed me under arrest.
M.O.I. JR: How were you charged with possession of marijuana, without having any? How did the prosecution and court try to justify that?
Quawntay Adams: I was charged with conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. During trial, my lawyers failed to argue that I never had possession of the marijuana. I was acquitted of the conspiracy and found guilty on the possession count.
On direct appeal, I argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction because I never had possession of the marijuana. Possession is defined as the ability to exercise control of something. I never had that ability.
In fact, the government still had control of it because it was their van. And it was locked in the back of that van. And I never had the ability to even see or touch the marijuana because it was locked in the back cargo compartment, which was secured with a cage and lock.
I couldn’t drive the van or move it because it was disabled, so it was impossible for me to exercise control over it in that manner. The appeals court opined that I had possession because I had the key to the ignition. But a useless key to an ignition didn’t give me the power to access the marijuana.
A closed-minded court will justify any conviction they can. One of the judges said that I had the ability to fashion myself a joint from the marijuana. How? Was I supposed to break into the cargo compartment and roll a joint while dozens of federal agents were dragging me out of the van?
M.O.I. JR: How did society look at marijuana in the state when you were arrested at the time, considering that marijuana legalization was already underway with the passing of Prop 215 in California in 1996?
Quawntay Adams: The feds created this war on drugs for a reason, and letting young Black men out because marijuana was becoming popular was at odds with the war’s purpose. Legalized marijuana? Only certain people benefit from those laws. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those privileged persons. Even to this day, the attitude remains the same.
M.O.I. JR: How do you look at your situation when you have been given an outlandish sentence of 35 years for marijuana possession, and dispensaries are popping up all over the state and country making mainly white people rich, while effectively locking Blacks out of the lucrative cannabis industry nationwide?
Quawntay Adams: It’s unfair. It makes you wonder. What’s the purpose? There has to be a clandestine agenda behind this. Some get rich, while some go to prison. Clearly, the scales of justice are imbalanced; nevertheless, nobody in power is doing anything to correct such injustices. It irks me at times, but then I try to find good in everything. At least I can walk the prison yard and tell people that I’m in prison for conduct that is no longer criminal. So who’s the bad guy now – me or the people holding me captive?
M.O.I. JR: Where is your case at now? Is there any possible reprieve or hearing in the near future scheduled to address the changing laws?
Quawntay Adams: Federal laws make it difficult for a man to get out of prison. This all started with President Bill Clinton when he implemented the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996. After Timothy McVeigh bombed the court building in Oklahoma, many were concerned that he might delay his execution by filing multiple challenges to his conviction, so they rushed to Congress and passed this bill that limited the amount of post-conviction motions federal prisoners could file.
They also placed a one-year limitation on filing a habeas. They wanted to expedite Tim’s execution. But ironically, Tim didn’t even file an appeal. He wanted to die. So instead, this law has been used to keep everyone else in prison. That’s how laws are; they implement them under the guise of protecting the public from notoriously dangerous individuals, but they use them to oppress and deny justice to the poor.
My point, Congress has essentially blocked any recourse for me to continue to challenge my unjust sentence. With the changes in marijuana laws, there may be ways to wiggle through a crack, but that will take a strong support system behind me. One that will expose the wrongs judges are frequently willing to perpetuate.
M.O.I. JR: Do you feel like this is a race issue or a class issue or a combination of the two? Why?
Quawntay Adams: No question. Criminal justice in America is clearly a race and class issue. How else can we explain the wealthy white men profiting from marijuana while I remain in prison? Even in my case, there was a white woman involved. She admitted to conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana and money laundering. She got probation.
M.O.I. JR: What do other prisoners have to say about the Jim Crow cannabis laws?
Quawntay Adams: Most prisoners in the feds are still asleep. I hate to say it, but it’s true. They are so asleep that they have nothing to say about the things that need to be discussed, but plenty to say about the things that don’t deserve our attention.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about what made you become an author? Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
Quawntay Adams: After my escape from prison, the media and many officials were amazed. I was the first to escape from a secure cell with a camera observing me 24 hours per day. This was years before El Chapo. So a documentary was produced and aired around the world. I started getting messages and letters from people who were moved by my story. They wanted to know more.
So I decided to write a book and give people the raw truth about me and my upbringing and the criminal justice system. My book is about a man craving to be free. Free from not only prison, but oppression, poverty, the shackles that have been placed on the minds of the people.
Freedom is a state of mind, and until we realize this and take complete control over our own minds, we will never be free. The book is very entertaining and informative. I didn’t know I had it in me until I completed this book and got amazing feedback from readers. It’s so good that a movie producer has optioned it for a motion film. I encourage everyone to read it and drop an honest review.
M.O.I. JR: If people would like to help with your situation, how can they get in touch with you? What can they do?
Quawntay Adams: If people want to help, they can drop an email at Quawntay8@yahoo.com, hit me on Facebook or my website, www.quawntayboscoadams.com. They can help my cause by generating exposure to my story. Expose the truth and let the people make their own decision. A genuine person can only witness so much wrong before they stand up and do something about it.
Thanks for the interview. Any time. If I can assist you in any way, don’t hesitate to contact me.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.