The clash between state and federal law when it comes to cannabis has left many business owners in horrible positions. Take Luke Scarmazzo for example. He is currently serving a 21-year and 10-month federal sentence for operating a medical marijuana dispensary in Modesto, California. His case is getting renewed attention because recreational cannabis and smoke shop supplies are bringing in billions in revenue, while those who were convicted for similar “crimes” sit in prison today.
Back in September of 2006, the DEA raided California Healthcare Collective (CHC), after it had been operating and paying taxes for over a year. Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes were both found guilty of operating a “continuing criminal enterprise” in 2009 and were sentenced to 21 years and 20 years, respectively. Montes was granted clemency by President Obama and was released in 2017, but Scarmazzo’s petition was denied. In 2021, Dcarmazzo was denied release once more at the last minute by President Trump.
Scarmazzo took to Facebook in January of 2021 to vent and reveal his circumstances. “I have been in this quarantine unit in a federal penitentiary at Yazoo City, Mississippi for 91 days,” he explained. “When I arrived here prison officials lied and told me I’d only be here the standard 14 days. This, despite me being ‘COVID recovered’ in September 2020, with at least a temporary acquired natural immunity. I’m locked into my cell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Out of 168 hour week, I’m allowed out of my cell for 3 hours to take a shower and use the phone; the other 165 I’m in a concrete box. I haven’t felt the warm sun or inhaled a breath of fresh air in over 3 months. I’m fed enough to be kept alive and confined in frigid temperatures. And these are just a few of the blatant constitutional and human rights violations that I endure daily without just cause.”
Attorneys for Scarmazzo will get another chance to earn his freedom, and will argue for his release at a hearing on Wednesday, June 30 at 10 a.m. PST. Scarmazzo isn’t scheduled for release until 2027.
The public can listen to the hearing on Wednesday by calling 1-877-402-9757, using access code 6966236#. Scarmazzo’s hearing is scheduled as the final of five 15-minute hearings, which begin at 10 a.m.
The White House had a press conference on 40/20 of this year, and The Daily Beast reporter Scott Bixby asked if the Biden administration plans to revisit calls for clemency for federal cannabis convictions. Scarmazzo’s case was referenced in the questioning.
“Well, I would just take it as an opportunity to reiterate that the president supports legalizing medicinal marijuana,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated at the time. “It sounds like this would have been applicable in this case, and of course decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging any prior criminal records.” She claimed that she shouldn’t “get ahead” of any particular cases, although Biden made a campaign promise to “broadly use his clemency power for certain non-violent and drug crimes,” declaring, “anyone who has a [marijuana] record should be let out of jail.”
Let’s hope Scarmazzo’s meeting on Wednesday goes well.