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Seth Ferranti – I Spent 21 Years in Prison for Cannabis


Roll a few fatty’s, grab a drink, and kick your feet up for this one… We are going on a trip into the past, the present , and the future.

I was sitting back winding down from my day. I had just fired up a fat blunt of some Purps and turned on a show I occasionally like to catch on Nat Geo. It was a great show. A show about someone I had heard rumors of and stories of, but never knew a name or face. After the show I did more research and was blown away. This man is a living legend for many reasons. Some could say an O.G Dealer, some may say a genius entrepreneur, and some could even say he was just a guy living life and having a blast. That was back then. Nowadays he is an amazing writer, business man, a great person, and more! So obviously I had to reach out and ask if we could chat more and learn more. But, before I did that it took me a while to get up the courage to ask. You can’t just hit up a legend and be like hey let’s chat. LOL So after a few days and a lot of herb I asked Seth Ferranti for an interview for Cannabis Cactus and well you’ve read this far….. So guess what he said, “I’m totally down!” So I took a huge hit, held my breath, and…..

We know the name but, but what do you go by and where are you from?

Everyone calls me Seth, though I have had some aliases, especially when I was a fugitive. I was born and grew up in California, but also lived overseas in Germany and England when I was a kid. And for real, after doing two decades in the belly of the beast, I’m kind of from prison too in a way, if you know what I mean. Becoming a man behind those walls makes an everlasting impression on you in a lot of ways. From how you look at things, to how you respond, to what type of people you fuck with.

Around what age did you start smoking herb? Can you recall the 1st time?

I started smoking weed in San Jose in 1984 when I was 13 years old. Myself and two friends, all of us All-American kids who played sports in Jr. High, got some Thai sticks from the local dealer and blazed up. I wasn’t even really pressed but after I smoked it kind of changed my perspective. Not sure if I got high or felt high that first time, but whatever it was it became a passion for me and I am still an avid stoner to this day, even though I have taken tolerance breaks at different times during my life.

What did an ounce run back then?

1984? Not even sure. The Thai Sticks were bought in dime bags. When I started retailing cannabis in Virginia in 1987, the run that led to my case and imprisonment, I was getting $200 an ounce for good California and Kentucky outdoor. But there was a lot of Mexican brick pot around back then that you could pick up in Dallas or Houston for $200-500 a pound, depending on quantity and quality. I would flip those units on the East Coast for $12-1500 easy. You could get an ounce of the brick weed in Texas for $60 and those same ounces would go for $150 on the East Coast. But even the kind bud, the good outdoor we would get, had nothing on the cannabis that we are smoking nowadays.

Some of us know some of us do not, but how or why did you start selling and who was your demographic of buyers?

After that first puff at the age of 13, I was always on the lookout for bud, and for real back then sometimes it was hard to find and most times the quality would be lacking seriously. But we smoked whatever we got. Being an avid stoner who was plugged in I usually ended up scoring for myself and a bunch of friends. Eventually by the age of 17, I turned this into a business. I started selling a lot when I moved to Virginia in 1987, after a three year stay in England, where I smoked hash – Moroccan, Lebanese – like it was going out of style.

I never planned to become a drug dealer, it just kind of happened. I had the contacts, people trusted me, and I was always down for an adventure. Back then, we would go on missions to score some bud. But, eventually, I got hooked up with some suppliers in Florida, Texas, and Kentucky and started buying bulk so that I could make all the profits since I was already doing all the work. My main thing was to give people good buds at a good price. I didn’t fuck with garbage and I was a righteous dude.

I went to Robinson High School, which had 4000 students, and we had a sister high school, Lake Braddock, only a couple of miles away, which also had 4000 students. I would sell to all the partiers and stoners at both schools. I was strictly a weed and psychedelics guy. As those kids graduated and went to college I followed them and sold them drugs. The universities up and down the East Coast that my friends attended were huge markets. By 1991, when I caught my fed case, I was supplying 15 colleges in five states with weed and LSD.

Most of us have sold a little here and there, some a little more than others. How many pounds do you think you sold in your time?

I don’t know. Not something I kept track of. The feds said I sold 100k hits of LSD in the nine months they were investigating me and LSD was really my side hustle. I made more money on the weed and moved more. I would get 50-100 pounds at a time of Mexican brick pot. That would usually take two to three months to flip. I would get the good outdoor in five, ten, or twenty pound shipments but that would move a lot quicker. I could do 20 in a couple of weeks.

In 1990, at the dead shows at Madison Square Gardens, a friend and myself sold close to 40 pounds of home grown outdoor in a week. In ounce allotments. We had 20 units of Kentucky outdoor, which had just been harvested, and 20 pounds of this super tasty purple haired bud we got in upstate New York. We probably made 60k profit that week after all was said and done.

There were lots of dealers who were way bigger than me. For a teenager, who wasn’t even 20-years-old, I was a big dealer, but in the big scheme of things, I wasn’t really that big a dealer at all. In federal prison I met dudes who did 1000 pound shipments. It puts everything into perspective.

To wrap up the past a little quicker and move to the present and future. How did it all come to an end and how long did the law give you?

I got busted by the feds in the summer of 1991 and when I found out I was facing 20- to-life, for a nonviolent, first-time offense, I bounced and became a fugitive. The feds put me on the US Marshal’s Top 15 most wanted list and painted me as public enemy number one. It was crazy. I was a fugitive for 2 years, selling cannabis the whole time, before I was caught in St. Louis, Missouri with 20 pounds by the fugitive task force in 1993. I was extradited back to Virginia and sentenced to 25 years for basically being a weed and acid activist.

I know when I was locked up I wrote a lot and had a few things published. Did you do a lot of your writing while locked up as well?

I started my writing career inside the feds. I had a lot of time to do and I was looking for a career I could start in prison and writing was about it. In the feds, all the regulations say that you can write and exercise your first amendment rights. But the truth of the matter is that when your writing attracts attention, you become a target for the prison authorities. I did a lot of hole time in the feds due to my writing. I also wrote a lot of books in the hole. When you’re subjected to 24 hour lockdown there’s not much more to do then read and write.

I know you have several books published. What are some of them and where can they be found?

My first book was PRISON STORIES. It’s a fictional account of my first two years in prison. It’s been very well received and some even consider it a classic in the prison literature field. I got into gangster books after that. I was always a big hip-hop fan and athlete too. I played ball with all the brothers. I used to hear them talk in reverent tones of these street legends from their hoods. Guys that were in the feds with life sentences. Who had been buried by the feds.

These same dudes were lionized in hip-hop’s lyrical lore. They were the legends of the crack era. To me they were like Billy the Kid type figures and when I saw that there were no books on these dudes I decided to start writing about them. STREET LEGENDS VOL 1 and 2, and THE SUPREME TEAM are three of the most popular, but I’ve published 22 books all together. You can find them all on Amazon or buy them from my website at sethferranti.com or gorillaconvict.com

After prison, what were your plans and goals?

I started writing in prison, doing articles for VICE, Don Diva, and other publications, and books on my own Gorilla Convict publishing house, so I wanted to see where that would take me, but also I got three college degrees in prison, after basically dropping out of high school, so I was considering an academic angle also. My ultimate dream was to write and direct films. I’d taken some screenwriting classes and written a couple of scripts during my incarceration. I wanted to be involved in something big, something worthwhile, that made an impact and impression on people. But more importantly, I wanted to take care of my wife, Diane, who rode with me for the whole 21 years I was in. I met her when I was a fugitive in St. Louis in 1993 and we have been together ever since, despite 21 years of unjust imprisonment.

How are those plans and goals going today? What are you up to these days?

I said fuck the academic angle when I got out. Didn’t see myself doing that academic style of writing. Not my cup of tea. I became an international freelance writer doing pieces for VICE, Penthouse, REAL CRIME, OZY, Daily Beast, Dazed, SLAM, and others. But I also started exploring film projects since I had the freedom to do so. I wrote and directed a four part super low budget series, THE EASTER BUNNY ASSASSIN in the summer of 2015.

By 2016 I was working on WHITE BOY, a feature documentary directed by Shawn Rech, that is now on NETFLIX and enjoyed an 18 month run on STARZ. I wrote and produced that film and I was able to learn under the director and filmmaker, who’s won several Emmys in Ohio. In 2018 I produced and played the lead in a film, THE PRECIOUS AND THE DAMNED, that was directed and written by my friend Nathan Karimi, who adapted the story from something I’d written.

In 2020, VICE released I WAS A TEENAGE FELON, which featured an episode on my case. I am currently wrapping up a new feature documentary, currently titled NIGHTLIFE, which will premiere this year, and I have two documentaries in production, THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE LSD TRADE and DOPE GENTLEMEN , which looks at the origins of America’s first drug cartel. Also got more books coming out on GORILLA CONVICT.

What’s your thoughts and opinions on medical, recreational, and the possibilities of federal legalization?

Legalize it. It’s bullshit that cannabis was ever made illegal in the first place. It’s only down to some capitalistic, greedy, fucking people and corporations that don’t give a fuck about anything but their own wealth. They need to let every person that is in prison for a marijuana offense out of prison too. I come from the War on Drugs era so I’m grateful for all that has changed, but we need to end this charade once and for all. The myths, misconceptions and outright lies that have been made about cannabis and masqueraded as truth need to stop. I’ve been pounding this drum since 1984 and it took a long time for people to see the truth. When I was a teenager, I used to tell people all the time, everybody smokes pot, and while that is not necessarily true, most people realize that if you want to escape a little, cannabis is the safest option, even though sugar, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol are the accepted mainstream drugs.

With the laws all changing where do you think you’ll be in 10 years from now?

It’s going to be like Budweiser or Marlboro, yeah? But that might take longer than 10 years. I’d like to see complete legalization on the federal level. I’d like to be able to grow and sell my own cannabis brand. Would need a craft license for that. We need more social equity in the cannabis business. Why should the pharmaceutical companies, who have poisoned and killed people with their greed, have first dibs on the cannabis industry? It was people like me who made the sacrifices to advance the cause and movement. Not saying I am the only one of course, there have been hundreds of thousands, tens of millions that have suffered due to prohibition. I’m just saying. Let’s give out the craft licenses to people who have paid the price and have the inclination.

Ok ok I’ll quit bugging after this last question. If you could smoke with anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?

Would have to be Cheech and Chong, but also Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson. I feel these four have advanced the cause of marijuana in a way that others couldn’t, despite prohibition. I know that’s four but couldn’t keep it down to one and all four are icons and legends in cannabis culture.

WOW, Just WOW! I’m almost at a loss for words. I guess let me start off by saying sorry Willie Nelson you’ve just been moved down on my list of people to smoke with and a new name has been added. From fun, travel, drugs, prison, writing, to filmmaking. A top ten Netflix producer/writer has done it all and continues to do more. Again just WOW!




Shane Stanford is a dank dad living in New Mexico. Read more of his articles and follow him on Instagram @NMBeardedMan

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