After 14 Years In Prison For Licensed Medical Marijuana Shop, Californian Finally Released

When medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, not everything was made perfectly clear and regulated for those operating in the industry. One of them is Luke Scarmazzo, who with his business partner Ricardo Montes opened the first licensed medical cannabis shop in the Central Valley.

"It was an uncertainty, it was an unknown," Scarmazzo told CBS.  "It was something that hadn't been done before so there were a lot of what-ifs. We knew we would get some pushback because the Central Valley tends to be more conservative but we couldn't imagine what ended up happening."

What did happen? Scramazzo and Montes were harshly sentenced to 20 years in prison for running a business that was illegal under federal law.

"There was some loose regulation but nothing that was exactly how you should operate so we took the route of 'Let's go above and beyond on regulation,'" Scarmazzo said. "But when the city realized what they had done they called the federal government."

And while Montes was granted clemency by President Obama and released in May 2017, Scarmazzo’s petition was inexplicably denied.

On Feb. 3 after nearly 15 years in prison, Scarmazzo was released 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 …

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