Breaking news, a federal judge ordered the early release of Luke Scarmazzo, the last known federal medical marijuana prisoner in California. Luke has served 14 years out of a 21-year sentence in federal prison for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in California.
On September 27, 2006, Luke Scarmazzo and his co-proprietor Ricardo Montes’ California Healthcare Collective dispensary was raided by the DEA, according to California Norml. Both men were found guilty of operating a “continual criminal enterprise” in May of 2008. Scarmazzo and Montes were sentenced to 20+ years in prison for this conviction.
While President Barak Obama released Montes in May of 2017, Scarmazzo was not granted that same privilege.
Activists Raise Awareness
Activists, such as Weldon Angelos, have done their part to raise awareness of the injustice surrounding cannabis sentencing and prosecution. Angelos met Scarmazzo in prison, where they served seven years together. Angelos was released in 2020 by President Donald Trump.
According to Marijuana Movement, Angelos said that “Luke’s story is one of the most tragic stories of our criminal justice system,” He further stated that Scarmazzo “was following state law but treated as a drug kingpin by the federal system. I’m relieved he can go home to his family and have a chance at rebuilding his life after serving 14 years in prison.”
Scarmazzo’s Early Release
On Thursday, February 2, 2023, Judge Dale Drozd ordered the early release of Luke Scarmazzo. Activists in the cannabis movement hope that the dynamic shift in the cannabis industry in the last several years under Trump and Biden will continue to bring other stories, such as Scarmazzo’s, to light.
After being released, Scarmazzo posted on Facebook,
“Today, after serving nearly 15 years in prison for operating a cannabis dispensary, I was granted my freedom. The feeling is surreal. We’ve worked toward this day for so long. This was a huge victory for my family, friends, community, and the cannabis movement. I’ll take a moment to enjoy this, but make no mistake, there’s still much work to be done—by people need to be free—and that hard work begins now.”
Follow Luke Scarmazzo’s story as he continues his fight against cannabis injustice.