This article by Adryan Corcione was originally published on NisonCo and appears here with permission.
Mario Ramos is the newest addition to the NisonCo team. In June, he was hired and onboarded as a researcher.
In addition to serving 16 years in the military, Mario worked for High Times as a VIP Events Coordinator for festivals. He’s also an artist and previously owned a graffiti artist store in lower Manhattan for eight years. His love for both art and cannabis go back decades. Everyone around knows he’s had a lifelong passion for cannabis culture, even when he was a teenager.
Mario is also part of NisonCo’s re-entry hiring program in partnership with the Last Prisoner Project. Fair chance hiring is at the core of this program, as our organization believes those with prior cannabis convictions shouldn’t be barred from the cannabis industry. After a three-year battle with the criminal justice system, he was released from prison in March 2021 and now serves in New Jersey’s intensive supervision program. He currently lives in Jersey City.
We interviewed Mario about his experiences growing up in New York City’s graffiti, breakdancing, and cannabis scene in addition to his incarceration story. Read below for our conversation.
Looking for Adryan’s recent interview with Mitzi Wall, mother of incarcerated cannabis activist Jonathan Wall? That can be found by clicking here.
Adryan: You grew up in New York City. Tell me what it was like being in the city so young.
Mario: I went to an all-boys high school in the Bronx. At the time, there was a lot of graffiti on the trains and it was like my own little museum. I got into graffiti really young. I was so lucky because that block I was in was so artistic. The graffiti artists that are real famous now, like Tracy 168, Rook, Charlie 158 — guys who pioneered it — were on that block.
Then I was a breakdancer in a crew called Rocksteady. I was one of the original guys from that crew. Even though it was on the street, it elevated a lot [of opportunities] for me. I ended up hanging in the galleries real young and going to a lot of places before you’re 18 years old. When you’re young, you …