LOS ANGELES, Feb. 3, 2023 /CNW/ – Weldon Angelos, Founder of The Weldon Project and Mission [Green] which focuses on gaining the release of cannabis prisoners, announced today that he helped secure the release of Luke Scarmazzo, who was serving 22 years in federal prison for lawfully operating a state compliant medical cannabis dispensary from 2004-2006. Today, U.S. District Court judge Dale A. Drozd granted compassionate release to Scarmazzo, who has already served over 14 years. In rendering the ruling, Judge Drozd wrote the following:
“When considering the unique confluence of all of these circumstances—changes in the legal landscape with respect to federal enforcement of laws relating to distribution of marijuana in California; the significant disparity in the sentence actually served by co-defendant Montes and the 14+ years already served in prison by defendant Scarmazzo; defendant’s good behavior, meaningful employment, volunteer work, pursuit of educational opportunities during his imprisonment; defendant’s solid release plans including job offers and family support; the lack of danger posed to the community were he to be released; and defendant Scarmazzo’s difficult family circumstances that have developed during his imprisonment—the court is persuaded that the granting of the requested relief is appropriate at this point and is supported by both extraordinary and compelling circumstances and consideration of the sentencing factors set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).”
Weldon Angelos, a former music producer who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2020, has been helping with the process and advocating for the release of Mr. Scarmazzo through his nonprofit organization, The Weldon Project, and Mission [Green].
“Luke’s story is one of the most tragic stories perpetrated by our criminal justice system. He was following state law but treated as a drug kingpin by the federal system. But I’m finally relieved that he can go home to his family and have a chance at rebuilding his life after serving 14 years in prison,” said Weldon Angelos, President of The Weldon Project, who was incarcerated with Mr. Scarmazzo in Lompoc, California, from 2010 until his release May of 2016. “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 ability to join us in this fight to free those we have both left behind.”
During their time together, Angelos helped write the clemency petitions for Scarmazzo and his co-defendant Ricard Montes. After Angelos was released, he continued his tireless advocacy for the clemency petitions of Scarmazzo and Montes to the Obama administration. Unfortunately, President Obama only granted the Montes petition but denied that of Scarmazzo. But today, Luke’s nightmare is finally over thanks to the court ruling. “What’s interesting about the decision in this case is that the judge took into account the policy changes at the federal level in determining that Luke would not be subject to federal prosecution today, which, in the judge’s view, constituted extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting early release,” Mr. Angelos added, expressing gratitude to Scarmazzo’s legal team and advocates.
“It has been a privilege to work on Luke’s behalf over the past few years,” said Kerrie Dent of King & Spalding, who represents Mr. Scarmazzo and filed the compassionate release motion on his behalf. “I have no doubt that Luke will use his freedom as an opportunity not only to work with groups like the Weldon Project to promote social change, but also to mentor young people in his community to ensure that they make good decisions and use their talents in positive ways. Judge Drozd issued a thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion and reached the right result. I believe he made the world a better place by granting Luke’s motion for compassionate release.”
Erik Luna, the Amelia D. Lewis Professor of Constitutional & Criminal Law at Arizona State University and the Founder of the Academy for Justice, described Judge Drozd’s ruling as “well written and judicious, as well as legally correct and morally just.” Professor Luna, who has long followed the Scarmazzo case and worked with Mr. Angelos on criminal justice reform, said Judge Drozd was “meticulous in detailing the truly ‘extraordinary and compelling’ reasons for releasing Luke immediately,” which included “the breathtaking overcharging in Luke’s case despite his compliance with California law – the injustice of which is clear to all given the sea change in marijuana law and policy at both the state and federal levels.”
Mission [Green] Board Member Kyle Kazan who is also the Chairman and CEO of a publicly traded cannabis company in Luke’s home state of California said, “this is truly a joyous and long overdue day for Luke and his family and also for Weldon who had made getting Luke released a personal mission. The next step is to help Luke restart his life and I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to join us in the cannabis industry and of course in advocating for President Biden to pardon the approximately 2,700 cannabis prisoners who are currently incarcerated.”
Luke’s case was the first to be highlighted by a cannabis consumer-based roundup program launched by Verano and Mission [Green] last year where Luke’s story was shared with thousands of consumers across the country.
Other links that provide background on Mr. Scarmazzo’s personal odyssey through the U.S. justice system include: The Inside Story of a Trump Pardon Gone Wrong and Most Affected: Luke Scarmazzo, Legal Dispensary Owner.
SOURCE Mission Green – The Weldon Project
For further information: Weldon Angelos, President, The Weldon Project, firstname.lastname@example.org, 385-272-8044