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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Cannabis prisoner Luke Scarmazo released

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A California man who spent nearly 15 years in federal custody for running a state statutory medical marijuana dispensary was released from prison last week after a years-long campaign by family and restorative justice advocates to secure his freedom. Luke Scarmazzo, named CalNORML, California’s last cannabis prisoner, was released from federal custody on February 3 in response to a compassionate release petition filed on his behalf in 2019.

In 2006, the medical dispensary was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration Scarmazo and his business partner, Ricardo Montes were operating in compliance Proposal 215The 1996 ballot measure that legalized the medical use of cannabis in the state of California. In May 2008, they were found guilty of running an ongoing criminal enterprise. Scarmazo was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison, while Montes was sentenced to 20 years. On January 5, 2011, a federal appeals court upheld the convictions of Scarmazo and Montes, denying them a new trial.

“We followed California law to the letter,” Scarmazo said. about their convictions. “We have paid our taxes. We used to go to work every day to provide benefit and service to society. However, in the end, we were made to look like common criminals.”

In May 2017, President Barack Obama granted Montes clemency, but for an unknown reason, Scarmazo was left behind in jail. He was again disappointed when President Donald Trump left office in January 2019 without granting Scarmazzo the pardon many advocates had expected.

Luke Scarmazo with his daughter. Image courtesy of Change.org

The clemency campaign secures Scarmazzo’s release

Scarmazo’s case has received a lot of attention, and several criminal justice advocates, including Weldon Angelos, a former cannabis prisoner who was pardoned by Trump in 2020, have taken up the cause for the pardon. The two served in the same federal prison in Lompoc, California from 2010 until Angelos’ release, where he helped write clemency petitions for Scarmazo and Montes. After Obama commuted Angelos’ sentence, the former prisoner continued to fight to secure Scarmazo’s release through his nonprofit group. Weldon Project.

“Luke’s story is one of the most tragic our criminal justice system has ever had. He was following state law but treated as a drug kingpin by the federal system. But I am finally relieved that he can come home to his family and have a chance to rebuild his life after serving 14 years.” in prison , ” Angelos said. “We’ve helped a lot of people, but this one is different. Luke is my friend and someone I’ve been fighting for since we were in prison together seven years ago. Now, Luke has the power to join us in this fight to free those we leave behind.”

The judge weighsUnique forumCircumstances

In ordering Scarmazzo’s release last week, US District Judge Dale A. Drozd wrote that he considered a “unique confluence” of circumstances before making his decision. The judge cited Scarmazo’s good behavior while behind bars; his pursuit of educational opportunities; Strong support from his family and community, including job offers; And note the discrepancy between the sentences Scarmazzo and Montes served, among other factors.

The judge wrote, “The court is satisfied that granting the relief sought is appropriate at this stage and is supported by exceptional and compelling circumstances and consideration of the judgment factors provided” in federal law.

Scarmazzo’s liberation campaign he was leading Green’s mission, a campaign by Angelos non-profit Weldon Project dedicated to securing the release of all cannabis prisoners. Kyle Kazan, a Weldon Project board member and CEO of Glass House Group in California, said his company has pledged Scarmazzo’s support to help ease the transition after his release. He also said the company would continue to advocate for a full pardon for Scarmazo, and called on President Joseph Biden to end confinement of all cannabis prisoners across the country.

Kazan wrote in an email to hemp now. “It would be much easier and more representative of the will of the majority of the American people for President Biden to make good on his promise and simply end the war on cannabis. It would not require him to make any prisoner swaps but simply sign 2,700 pardons. And Congress is negligent in its collective duty to continue to allow people to be governed.” They have to go to federal prison because of this plant.”

Just days after his release, Scarmazo also vowed to fight for those still serving time due to cannabis-related convictions.

“After spending nearly 15 years in prison for running a cannabis dispensary, I got my freedom. The feeling is surreal. We’ve been working towards this day for so long,” Scarmazo says. wrote in a statement From the Last Prisoner Project, another group working to free cannabis prisoners. “This was a huge victory for my family, friends, our community, and the entire cannabis movement. I’m going to take a moment to enjoy this, but make no mistake, there is still a lot of work to be done — my people must be free — and that hard work begins now.”


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