Federal Judge Release Person Who Served 14 Years Over California Legal Marijuana Store Due To Changing Policy Landscape!

A federal judge recognized that compassionate release is warranted in part due to the dramatic shift in the legal landscape for cannabis on Thursday, allowing the early release of a man who had served 14 years in prison for his role in operating a state-legal medical marijuana dispensary in California. In 2006, at the age of 26, Luke Scarmazzo was prosecuted federally for operating the dispensary in California.

Prior to the Justice Department’s official shift toward a hands-off policy toward state marijuana programs, he was given a 21-year jail sentence for the crime. His situation has been used as an example by activists all over to highlight the importance of sweeping change.

Weldon Angelos is a prime example; he was granted a pardon by President Trump for his involvement in a cannabis case and has since become a leader in the fight for clemency and drug policy reform. Angelos and Scarmazzo endured seven years in jail together, where they became fast friends. After promising his friend’s freedom, Angelos finally saw his efforts rewarded on Thursday when the U.S.

Federal Judge Release Person Who Served 14 Years Over California Legal Marijuana Store Due To Changing Policy Landscape!

District Court for the Eastern District of California granted the release. Angelos, who phoned Luke Scarmazzo on Friday morning to break the news, later told Marijuana Moment, “Luke’s story is one of the most heartbreaking tragedies of our criminal justice system.” He was acting within the bounds of state law but was being targeted as a drug lord by the federal government.

“After 14 years in prison, I’m pleased that he can return to his family and try to start over again. Angelos, who leads the advocacy group The Weldon Project, said, “We’ve assisted a lot of folks, but this one is different.” Since the seven years we spent in prison together, I have been battling for my friend Luke. It’s great that Luke can now help us liberate the people we’ve left behind.

On Friday, Scarmazzo should be free to go. In his 29-page order, Judge Dale Drozd outlined the many considerations that led him to rule that Scarmazzo should be granted compassionate release. Such release is reserved for situations with “exceptional and compelling” reasons for release. The Obama administration commuted the sentence of his co-defendant, the dispensary’s former CEO, who faced identical charges.

His father is fighting terminal cancer, and the whole family is going through a tough time. He was a model inmate while behind bars, and now he has the opportunity to make something of his life outside of prison. More importantly, Angelos is hopeful that the judge’s outlook on the change in marijuana policy and enforcement will set a precedent that could persuade other federal courts to treat cannabis cases with similar discretion.

The judge wrote, “Defendant Scarmazzo is certainly correct when he argues that there have been ‘dramatic changes in the legal landscape concerning the sale and use of marijuana’ in the fifteen years since he was sentenced, including ‘changes in [state] marijuana laws, Congress’s perspective, public sentiment, the Justice Department’s enforcement policies, and… case law.

That’s especially true in California, where the dispensary defendant ran was located. Although federal law has not changed, and states such as California have legalized marijuana use within certain limits, federal prosecutions for marijuana-related offenses have been drastically reduced.

Federal Judge Release Person Who Served 14 Years Over California Legal Marijuana Store Due To Changing Policy Landscape!

According to the undersigned’s observations, the federal government’s efforts to crack down on marijuana crimes in California are currently focused mostly on large-scale, illegal growth operations on federal land. The decision also recognizes that Congress has repeatedly authorized a rider to the Justice Department’s budget since 2014 that prohibits it from interfering with state medical cannabis programs. Plus, it cited responses from American citizens.

Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court pondered the “contradictory” and “unstable” federal policy stance on marijuana in the year 2021. It seems that “marijuana offenders who are convicted of federal criminal offenses now appear to be receiving much lesser terms than in the past,” the judge wrote.

“In short, there is no doubt in the undersigned’s mind that those who violate still existing federal marijuana laws today are being treated much differently by the federal criminal justice system than those engaging in similar conduct at the time of defendant Scarmazzo’s criminal conduct (2004-06) and his prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in this federal court (2006-08),” Drozd said.

While the judge acknowledges that Scarmazzo’s arguments cannot be completely ignored, she notes that these policy concerns alone may not have been sufficient to merit compassionate release under the existing criteria.

As time goes on, the idea that some people should spend decades in prison while others may run their businesses relatively freely without fear of government prosecution becomes increasingly absurd. King & Spalding attorney Kerrie Dent told Marijuana Moment, “It has been an honor to work on Luke’s behalf for the past few years.”

In addition to working with organizations like the Weldon Project to effect positive social change, “I have no doubt that Luke will utilize his freedom as an opportunity to mentor young people in his community to ensure that they make good decisions and use their abilities for constructive ends.”

Judge Drozd “delivered a thoughtful, well-reasoned ruling and reached the proper result,” Dent added. For the better, in my opinion, because he granted Luke’s plea for compassionate release. For his part, Angelos remarked, “What’s significant about the result, in this case, is that the judge took into account the policy changes at the federal level in concluding that Luke would not be liable to federal prosecution today.”

As the judge explained, “the developments in the legal landscape around cannabis represent extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting a reduction in sentence to time-served,” effectively creating a new standard for cases of this nature.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is still under fire for not doing enough to grant cannabis clemency following the president’s blanket pardon of anyone convicted of federal marijuana possession convictions last year.

His pardons do not legally clear criminal records because it is outside his purview as president, but he has urged state governors to follow suit because the vast majority of cannabis convictions have occurred at the state level, where authorities may have more leeway to offer relief.

Since hundreds of people are still detained for federal cannabis offenses, supporters have actively lobbied for their immediate release. However, Biden has made it plain that he will only pardon those with minor drug convictions, such as possession, and not those who have trafficked drugs.

According to a new report from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), federal marijuana prosecutions were at an all-time low in the most recent fiscal year, and no one is presently incarcerated for possession of marijuana.

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