California cannabis prisoner Luke Scarmazzo was freed from prison on Feb. 3, with help from Mission Green, a campaign led by The Weldon Project. “Today, after serving nearly 15 years in prison for operating a cannabis dispensary, I was granted my freedom,” Scarmazzo wrote on his Facebook page. “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 entire cannabis movement. I’ll take a moment to enjoy this, but make no mistake, there’s still much work to be done—my people need to be free—and that hard work begins now.”
Scarmazzo owned a Modesto-based dispensary, called the California Healthcare Collective (CHC), with Ricardo Montes in 2004. In September 2006, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided CHC and Scarmazzo and Montes, who were 26 at the time, were found guilty in 2008. Ultimately Scarmazzo was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months, and Montes was sentenced to 20 years. Montes was later pardoned by former President Barack Obama in 2017, but Scarmazzo remained in prison.
Scarmazzo petitioned for release in January 2021, but was denied. On Facebook, he shared the details of his life in prison after the denial. “I have been in this quarantine unit in a federal penitentiary at Yazoo City, Mississippi for 91 days. 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,” Scarmazzo wrote. “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 …
Author: Nicole Potter / High Times