Editors’ Note: This is the transcript version of the podcast. Please note that due to time and audio constraints, transcription may not be perfect. We encourage you to listen to the podcast, embedded below if you need any clarification. We hope you enjoy!
Imagine this. You operate a state-licensed business. You pay your taxes and follow ALL the rules and regulations as defined.
You hear a knock at your home door on your daughter’s birthday day. U.S. federal Agents are there to charge you with the Kingpin Statue or the same law designed to target El Chapo and other cartel leaders.
Not only have you never been convicted of a crime, but you have also followed all the rules California enacted when they passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996
Certainly, a jury of your peers who voted for this law almost a decade earlier would be an arbitrator of truth and fair would recognize you’re not a drug kingpin, let alone a criminal. This is the United States of America.
This week we sit down with Luke Scarmazzo, One of the first licensed medical dispensaries in the United States, who shares his compelling story.
- 2004 California Cannabis Industry
- Scarmazzo vs. United States of America
- Emotional rollercoaster
- His mission now and how others can help
- And so much more
About Luke Scarmazzo
In 2006, Luke Scarmazzo was running a state-legal medical cannabis dispensary in Modesto, California, when he was arrested by U.S. federal agents following a DEA raid of the business. Scarmazzo was prosecuted in federal court and received a 22-year jail sentence. He and his family have turned to The Weldon Project for support.
Though Scarmazzo’s dispensary was legal through California’s Proposition 215 – which legalized medical cultivation, sales, and consumption in the state – he and his business partner were charged under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute. The CCE Statute, also known as the Kingpin Statute, is a federal law designed to target large-scale drug traffickers and cartels who are responsible for long-term and elaborate drug conspiracies. It carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 years.
In 2017, after serving nearly a decade in jail, Scarmazzo petitioned the Obama administration for commutation. His business partner, Ricardo Montes, received clemency, but Luke’s request was denied. In 2020, advocates with the nonprofit The Weldon Project included Luke’s name on a list of 25 marijuana offenders sent to the Trump White House as part of a clemency campaign supported by Republicans, Democrats, law enforcement and various celebrities. Although President Trump granted nine of the requested pardons, Luke’s request was not granted.
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[00:00:02] Bryan Fields: up guys? Welcome back to Episode of the Dime. I’m Brian Fields, and with me as always is Kellen Finney. And this week we’ve got a very special guest, Luke Scar, Mazzo cannabis pioneer, one of the first licensed medical dispensaries in the country. Luke, thanks for taking
[00:00:14] Luke Scarmazzo: the time. How you doing today, man?
[00:00:16] Thanks for having me, Brian. Dope to be on the show and, uh, happy to be here.
[00:00:20] Bryan Fields: Excited to kind of have a conversation today. Kellen, how are you
[00:00:23] Kellan Finney : I’m doing really well, really excited and honored to talk to Luke and, you know, hear about his story and, uh, the early days of cannabis and the whole kind of history.
[00:00:31] How are
[00:00:32] you, Brian? Yeah, I’m excited. And Luke, I know we have to do for the record, uh, we have a East coast, west coast battle In your location,
[00:00:38] Luke Scarmazzo: please. Yeah, I’m in, uh, Modesto, California, which is about, uh, an hour south of Sac, an hour east of Oakland. So yeah, I’m right in the heart of it. I love it. I guess that’s West Coast.
[00:00:51] West Coast, west Coast. That part’s, that part’s getting edited out.
[00:00:55] Bryan Fields: So before we dive into your story, I’d love to chat. Early [00:01:00] days 20 2004. What was the cannabis industry like?
[00:01:04] Luke Scarmazzo: Okay, so transport you back into 2004. Like you walk into our dispensary, there is zero brands in there. There’s not a package in there.
[00:01:15] We are dispensing cannabis in like what you would traditionally see, like prescription, like medic medication in like, you know what you would get like, I guess your Vicodin prescription or something in Right. That’s what like the ace came in and stuff and would have like a label on it, you know, with all, you know, keep outta reach of children and you know, the strand names.
[00:01:34] So we just had strands back then. We didn’t have any brands. Um, And you, we, we are ba basically vertically integrated, but we also bought cannabis from vendors. And they would come in and they would show, you know, they would sign up, become members of the collective, and then they would like show, you know, their product and what they had and we would buy it there.
[00:01:56] The lab testing was just like barely getting off the ground [00:02:00] back then. Um, there wasn’t all these, you know, the only extracts back then were like, wax some cold water hash and some oil really, you know what I’m saying? There wasn’t vape pens, you know, none of that stuff existed in the store back then. Um, purple, like purple cannabis, like purple urkel, granddaddy purple.
[00:02:21] Like those were the only strands that had color in ’em, you know what I mean? Everything else was just green, you know what I’m saying? Like, now we got all these people that are used to like all these exotic looks and exotic flavors and stuff like that. But you know, there was only a handful of strands back then that had that.
[00:02:36] Um, and like, yeah, I grew, I grew up in cannabis like in
[00:02:41] Luke Scarmazzo: nineties in California. My mom, I mean, my dad and my aunts and uncles all grew, sold, smoked weed. So, you know, I got like a picture that was hanging up in the back of the office and I was probably like four years old and there’s like a birthday cake in front of me and it has this huge water leaf on it that’s like covering the whole cake.
[00:02:59] And I’m like, [00:03:00] like in front of the cake. It was, it was classic picture, but just like, you know, just to give context like that was all around us back
[00:03:08] Luke Scarmazzo: Um, so, you know, growing up it was kind of a natural progression to kind of, I grew my first cycle of weed when I was 15 and like 95, um, Northern Lights strand, so, you know what I’m saying?
[00:03:19] Just to kind of take everybody back and then just kind of naturally went into the market, um, and was always, was a grower, you know what I’m saying? I was growing and, and selling weed before it was an industry. Um, My daughter. I mean, it was like, there’s a, there’s a cycle now, right? Because now my daughter, she’s like three or four years old helping me cut clones.
[00:03:43] So if there’s any, like, if there’s a, a baby of this generation, like it’s her, you know what I’m saying? She was in the mix, like cutting AK 47 clones when she was like four years old. You know what I mean? So she was like, dad, these are like baby plants. So yeah, it was, it was definitely [00:04:00] a totally different time back then.
[00:04:02] Um, law enforcement, like even though we had, uh, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 that legalized medicinal cannabis, you know, the first, uh, cannabis regulation in the nation, law enforcement really wasn’t cool with it. They still thought like, if they came down and hammered people, like they could kind of put the genie back in the bottle, I guess.
[00:04:24] And so, you know, traveling with cannabis back then, even though you were legal to do it and transport, um, If you got pulled over, like by Highway Patrol or if you got pulled over by usually some of the local PDs, I mean, you could get arrested still. You would still, uh, have all your product confiscated. Um, so it was, you know, it was definitely a different time.
[00:04:46] The threat of prosecution was real. Um, the feds were still coming in and hammering people. Um, so yeah, it is like, you know, the industry now is, it took a lot, it took a lot to get to, to where we’re at today, [00:05:00] and you know, it’s good that, that people know that story and the sacrifices and just the craziness that that happened in the past.
[00:05:07] Bryan Fields: What was the process to get the license? Was there any hesitancy to kind of dive into that process? And then were there guidelines loose, strict? How,
[00:05:14] Luke Scarmazzo: did that work? Yeah, so when we opened California Healthcare Collective in 2004, the mm PA had just passed, and that was basically the first. Dispensing, like loose regulation about dispensing that had ever passed in the country.
[00:05:31] And it kind of gave some loose regulations on, like, cannabis dispensaries and what they were called collectives back then. Um, and there wasn’t like a whole lot to it, you know what I mean? The, the, the, the regulation was very vague, so you kind of had to self-regulate, right? You had to like, like they had like limits of eight ounces that could be dispensed per patient, right?
[00:05:52] But if somebody came in and bought eight ounces from our store and they had a joint in the car and they drove away and got pulled over, then it was like our [00:06:00] fault. Like, then we would be, we became the bad guys that sold them too, too much cannabis. So like we would cut the limits in half and say, oh look, okay, it’s four ounces a day.
[00:06:08] Uh, you know, that’s the most that we can dispense. We had to do things like double check, like verifi, uh, verify doctor’s recommendations, valid California IDs. We had a whole process that we had to go through on that. Um, and then getting the actual license, like it wasn’t like it is now. Like there wasn’t, you know, $20,000 local fees and stuff like that.
[00:06:30] It was literally like, you know, write, you know, fill out this license form, you know, tell us where your location is and, uh, we’ll give, we will give you the license in the state where it was like real similar, like you had to drive down to Sacramento, give them, you know, submit your paperwork for the permit.
[00:06:45] And it, like, they issued it like a week or two later, and then we just hung them like in the back of our, our store. Like, it was like a, you know, regular local business and just, you know, did our thing from there. Was there, um, [00:07:00] oh, what was I just gonna ask? I just lost my train of thought. Sorry. Um, I was good.
[00:07:05] Go ahead Brad. Were you
[00:07:06] Bryan Fields: surprised, like when, how easy it was to get the license? Obviously going in, you’re probably aware of like, you know, this is what they’re saying, but there has to be a part of you that’s like, this seems kind of too good to be true. We’re just gonna fill out some paperwork, they’re gonna prove us and we’re gonna get a piece of paper looks like a, an award and, and put on the wall.
[00:07:21] I need, was there any sort of feeling in your mind, like, this seems kind of off.
[00:07:25] Luke Scarmazzo: Um, this, it, it was weird cuz like, the thing that was really the hard part was finding the locality, right? Because like in the Bay Area, I’ll back up a little bit. Like California is like a very blue state, very leans very liberal, right?
[00:07:42] But the central valley of where I’m located, like Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto is really slant conservative. So, uh, you know, you have a lot of ag, you know, people here and stuff like that. So finding the locality was the hard part in the Bay Area. They were a lot more lenient. The local government [00:08:00] would be like, yeah, you guys can open here.
[00:08:02] Um, So in Modesto and Stockton, like we, we went and met with Stockton first and tried to like approach the city council and the mayor and say, Hey, you know, this is what we plan to do, open a medical cannabis dispensary. And they were like, hell no. They’re like, you guys are not open in here. Like this is this, this is jurisdiction is not allowing this type of, uh, activity.
[00:08:25] Like, it was like we were asking to like open a cocaine factory in their, in their city or something. Like, they were like abdo, like against it, you know, staunchly against it. Um, so then we went back to our attorneys and we were like, yo, we went and talked to the city of Stockton. They said, absolutely not.
[00:08:43] And our attorneys were like, listen, you don’t have to ask like, permission to op, it’s a state law. Like they, it was passed in the state. You don’t have to ask permission as long as they haven’t passed a ban, which just, they were just starting to like kind of put their toes in the water. Some of the localities and counties around, [00:09:00] around trying to do bands.
[00:09:02] Um, So they said, as long as they don’t have a band, you guys can do it. So we, we were like, well, hell, we’ll just do it in our home city then. So we opened in, in Modesto, um, the first like kind of few people that came in on those first two days, they were just like, leery, like looking like, is this really a dispensary?
[00:09:18] Like, are these dudes really selling medical cannabis here? Like, they just wanted to see if it was real, right? And then the, the local paper comes on, like the second day we’re open and they asked to come in. We were like, no, you can’t come in without a doctor’s recommendation. They were like, are you guys, uh, dispensing medical marijuana here?
[00:09:36] And I like hesitated because I was like, like if I say yeah, like the cat’s out of the bag, then like, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. But, you know, I, we, we were a legal business, so I was like, you, so I, I told him, yeah, we we’re, we, we dispense medical cannabis here. Um, so then the dude just leaves the next day we’re front page of the paper.
[00:09:57] I look at it at like before I get ready to go to work, and I’m [00:10:00] like, oh shit. Like, I’m, I’m expecting there to be like the police squad, like waiting for us when we pull up to, to the, to the store that day. Um, so I pull up and it looks like a Blockbuster movie had just like released on our block. Like there was literally like 500 people lined up, like all the way around the corner and everything.
[00:10:24] And I was like, oh man, like this is gonna be crazy now. And then, like every day from that point forward it just kept growing and getting bigger and more patience and more people to the point to where like the demand got so high that we couldn’t even, I couldn’t even like meet the demand anymore. Like the supply, like we had literally run every grower in the Central Valley, like dry on on cannabis.
[00:10:49] Like they, I would come back to ’em in like a week and they’d be like, Luke, like I gave you everything I had last week. I have nothing left to give you. So at that point I [00:11:00] ended up linking up with some of the guys up in the Mendocino and, and, uh, humbled in the Emerald Triangle. And man, they blessed me. I mean, those dudes up there, at first I was like, man, like it’s probably just some old school like hippie growers up there.
[00:11:14] Like they, you know, the game probably has kind of went past them. I was dead wrong. Like, those guys are beasts up there. They were like, they grew some of the fires, cannabis that I’ve ever seen. And then, and they had just like an abundant supply. So we were like a perfect match for each other. Right. I have this store that’s booming.
[00:11:33] They have all these, all these packs up there that they’re trying to move. And we just had a great relationship there. And you know, from that on, we had like a train coming down from the 1 0 1 that was just packed up, the packing, the dispensary up. So in the early days there wasn’t any track and trace. So like how did you have to do
[00:11:50] Bryan Fields: anything to like,
[00:11:51] Luke Scarmazzo: Qualify a a, a cultivator.
[00:11:54] Is there any like Yeah, any license. I mean, they needed, they, what they had to do is they had to become a member of the [00:12:00] collective. So they would become a member of the collective sign their paperwork over, and then we would give them like a number of recommendations to cover whatever their grow was. So like a number of patients, right?
[00:12:11] Yeah. Yeah. Each patient was allowed six plants to grow, right? So you had to post that recommendation at your cultivation. So if you had a hundred of these recommendations there, you could grow 600 plants. So, and then it, you know, there wasn’t any limit on it like that. They hadn’t really like tapped down on that.
[00:12:28] So when a once, once a grower, uh, became, uh, a member of the collective and, and a vendor, then it w it was completely legal for us to go up and transport the cannabis down from their facility.
[00:12:40] Bryan Fields: So in real time you were helping kind of to build the infrastructure and get others on board because you had to kind of be the customer facing as people were coming in, you’re like, I had to get more supply.
[00:12:49] And then you had to get more people kind of on board. Were additional stores opening up at that same time?
[00:12:55] Luke Scarmazzo: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Um, probably. I [00:13:00] mean, the stores started to open up in the Bay area. Um, and then like
[00:13:15] Bryan Fields: were there other stores opening up at this time, like competitors, like near you, like trying to get involved in the legal cannabis market?
[00:13:23] Luke Scarmazzo: Well, there were stores that were opening up in like the Bay Area, right, because of just how liberal those, those local governments were. But right after we opened in the Central Valley, all the surrounding.
[00:13:36] Cities and counties started issuing these moratoriums and bans. Like they were like, the sky was falling, right? Like, oh shit, we got medical cannabis up, you know, in, in our, our locality. So they tried to, like, even our, even our own city tried to like zone us out and like ban dispensaries. And we thought like, oh man, now we gotta shut down.
[00:13:57] And then, you know, our attorney said, no, actually, [00:14:00] like you guys are grandfathered in because you guys were already doing business. So then all the surrounding cities and everything start issuing these bans and implementing these bans So instead of like shutting us down, what they did is like, essentially created like a monopoly.
[00:14:14] Now we have like the only dispensary in like a hundred mile radius in the center of California, which is like the fifth largest economy in the world, right? So like, then it got wild. It got really wild then, because then, you know, I mean, people from everywhere were coming. It wasn’t just now people from Modesto that were coming, it was people coming in from Stockton, coming in from Sacramento, Merced, Oakland, the Bay Area, all the, you know, cities in the east of us.
[00:14:42] So it was, it got wild. It got wild there for sure. Was
[00:14:46] Bryan Fields: it, uh, deli style in the
[00:14:48] Luke Scarmazzo: days? Like were they, did you let customers, like, smell the product and like that whole kind of experience that Yep. Yeah. I mean, like we had California got away from it, but I still love it. Yeah, yeah. No, it was [00:15:00] definitely like the way to go, right?
[00:15:01] Because you, we would have like, you know, all the mason jars of each strand, you know, labeled and all that stuff, and they would all be set out, right? And then they, they would, we had like a, basically like a menu board, like similar to kind of what you got behind you right there, just with the list of all the different strands on ’em that, you know, we had high grade, mid grade and kind of like a, uh, you know, more affordable type of eighth.
[00:15:25] Um, and people would, yeah, they’d be able to come in like. Handle the cannabis, look at it, smell it, open the jar. And then once they picked whatever strand they want, our sales guy would kind of radio into the processing room. They would get it, get it ready for ’em, weigh it out, put it in the medicine vial, bag it up, and, and bring it out for sales.
[00:15:46] So business
[00:15:47] Bryan Fields: I’m assuming, is booming at this point. Is there thoughts on your mind about expansion and growing this? Because there has to be a, a thought process where you’re like, Hey, we did this once. It is absolutely thriving. Do you consider going more, like, take us through that thought
[00:15:59] Luke Scarmazzo: [00:16:00] process? Yeah. Um, the next move was to go to the, the next biggest market that was untapped, which was Southern California.
[00:16:07] So we, as soon as we kind of got our bearings and were able to kind of meet the demand that that was being created up in Modesto and in Northern California, um, we started to look to down south towards la. Um, we started to kind of look at properties and stuff at that point and. Feel out LA for what their, you know, laws were and what their regulations were, you know, regarding cannabis.
[00:16:32] Um, and we, we actually had contracts signed with a property the day we got raided. Like we were supposed to actually meet with the property owners later on. So I kind of fast forwarded to, you know, the feds coming in in September of oh six. But yeah, we were probably, we would’ve been open in LA in probably the beginning of oh seven if everything would’ve went well.
[00:16:56] So let’s stay with the
[00:16:57] Bryan Fields: early days and then we’ll hop into that story. Who were some of the players [00:17:00] that you recall, some of the bigger names that maybe were smaller back then that kind of have bursted on a scene? Do you have any individuals like that
[00:17:05] Luke Scarmazzo: that come to mind? Um, so yeah, like, remember I kind of mentioned like there was a few dispensaries in the Bay Area and we would go to ’em, you know, because we, you know, we were such kind of a tight-knit community back then.
[00:17:17] Like if somebody opened in the Bay Area, we usually knew the owners or something like that. So there was a spot in Frisco. That, um, used to sell clones and, you know, dispense canvas and in Frisco you could actually smoke on the premises, which was really dope. That was something that like, you know, was kind of a new thing back then.
[00:17:37] Um, and the guy that work was working the door at that dispensary was Berner you know what I mean? was sitting there, he was checking IDs cool as shit. Um, you know, so it was, it was really dope, like me getting out and then watching the progression of Berner being in like the ground floor of the industry way back then, back when we were opening our dispensaries to, you know, the [00:18:00] empire that he’s blown up now.
[00:18:01] So that, was really dope. Um, I mean there’s a lot of guys, a lot of guys are huge now. Um, my dude, Addison Demora he, he, he’s, uh, runs legends of Hashish she’s like one of the biggest, like hash, you know, uh, uh, producers in like the state and is like high level stuff. Um, Man, I mean, I, listen, I could name people from back in the day all the time that they’re just, they’re huge now.
[00:18:27] Uh, third gen farms, Josh d that’s, that created the OG cush strand back in, in, in LA back in the day. Um, you know, it’s really awesome to see that these guys, they’re still in the industry. They’re still doing, you know, uh, things that they love and, and they’re being recognized for it. And I think that’s dope.
[00:18:47] Yeah, I think that’s
[00:18:48] Bryan Fields: awesome. And Burner’s told that story about how working that that area has allowed him to meet so many people. Cuz he said it was such a small, tight-knit community and everyone came through that early, in those early days and how important that was. Yeah. So the [00:19:00] number one product, the number one strain you remember from, from that
[00:19:03] Luke Scarmazzo: time.
[00:19:04] Hmm. Damn. Uh, probably the Granddaddy Purple. Or The Purple Urkel. Both of those were like my favorites because not only did they have that exotic look and that color and just were super frosty, right. They tasted like, like a great Jolly Rancher. I mean, you would hit that thing and like back then, like we, we, we smoked blunts a lot now, which, you know, I do not condone smoking tobacco.
[00:19:27] Um, but back then, you know, that’s, that was the thing, right? So when you would like load up one of those blunts with like a eighth of some granddaddy or some urkel, like, and taste it like through the tobacco, like that was like a, a special treat. And then we used to like, I don’t know if you’re familiar with, there’s, there’s a new kind of, uh, thing coming out right now called hash holes.
[00:19:49] And basically it’s like a, it’s like a pre-roll that they like put like hash all in the center of it and you know, it, you know, just gets you sky high, right? Well, so back then we used to [00:20:00] do something similar. We would take like the granddaddy bust, open the blunt, load it, load it up with Keith from whatever, like the rolin strand or whatever we had back then.
[00:20:09] Then we’d put cold water hash on top of it, then we’d drip like oil all on top of that. Right. And then we would roll it, that thing would burn for like 45 minutes. And I mean, literally there would be like seven people that were just wasted baked off of it. And so like, you know, just things like that. Like you just don’t really see that type of stuff anymore.
[00:20:28] Bryan Fields: I mean, that sounds incredible. So continuing in the operation, is there any, any hesitancies or any people that come in, give you warnings or any feelings in the back of your mind thinks that like, hey, what we’re doing now could potentially have some issues in the future? Did you ever have
[00:20:42] Luke Scarmazzo: those thoughts?
[00:20:43] I mean, not really because I mean, the feds were, were kind of shutting some of the places down, but we felt like if we paid our taxes and we ran an above board operation, um, you know, we were licensed. [00:21:00] So we felt like if we did everything right, right. That, uh, you know, they would, they would go after maybe the people that were, you know, Uh, skirting some of the California laws or something like that.
[00:21:12] Um, so, you know, in hindsight, like if they would’ve sent me like a cease and desist order and said, Hey, look, if you don’t shut down your dispensary, we’re gonna give you, you know, two decades in federal prison. I would’ve been like, please, guys, I’m outta here. Um, but I mean, that just wasn’t the case. You know, they, the, you know, the local, local law enforcement, of course, was always hostile to us, but I mean, that was just kind of par for the course because they just didn’t accept medical cannabis at all.
[00:21:41] They, they felt like we were all lying that there was no real medical benefit to cannabis in that like everybody was just trying to get high. And, and so, you know, the, it was expected to come from like a, a local conservative police department. But, you know, I always thought like the feds [00:22:00] would be, uh, a little bit more analytical on who they were, kind of were strategic on who they would kind of decide to raid and who they wouldn’t.
[00:22:08] Um, but you know, in hindsight too, like I was super outspoken. I was outspoken like before I, I was incarcerated the whole time I was running the dispensary. Um, about just like advocating for, for a just and fair industry, you know what I mean? I felt like, um, you know, federal prosecution and that threat of federal prosecution and how a lot of the local, you know, PDs and law enforcement were dealing with, it was just unfair.
[00:22:36] You know what I mean? It was a law that was passed by the state and I was really vocal about it. So I think that could have been a reason that, you know, we were, we were unfairly targeted. Did your attorneys have any like, guidance on that? Were they not very concerned about federal, uh, like the federal government coming?
[00:22:55] Well in, in 2005, like about, I would say like, [00:23:00] Maybe a year halfway into what we were doing, probably a year into running the dispensary, uh, Supreme Court decision had, had come down. It was called Rates versus Gonzalez. And up until that point, the d e a was, had a injunction against them of raiding or arresting anybody who was involved in the medical cannabis industry.
[00:23:18] But in 2005, the Supreme Court overturned that decision. So at that point, some of our attorneys came to us and said, look, it’s a little bit different now. Like we don’t, the California law is still California law. The decision didn’t affect that and didn’t like nullify it in any way. But at the same time, the feds have now been given the green light that they can go back in and, and resume some of these raids.
[00:23:43] Um, so we, we definitely, you know, it, it changed a little bit in at 2005, but still we were at the point to where we were like, we’re doing it right. Like, why would they come in and raid a legitimate business that’s paying taxes? I mean, we were paying federal taxes like. [00:24:00] You know,
[00:24:01] Bryan Fields: so let’s go into that day on September of 2006, you know, what was the morning like?
[00:24:05] How did that, how did that happen? And take us through what you, you remember?
[00:24:10] Luke Scarmazzo: Um, it was my daughter’s birthday, so it was on September 27th. Uh, she had to fly down with her mom and some of her friends to Disneyland. We were gonna have her birthday party at Disneyland. It was gonna be a really big deal. It was her fourth birthday.
[00:24:25] Um, and I had some meetings later on that day. So I was like, me and my dad were gonna fly back, fly or fly down there later, later on that day. Um, so at like six in the morning, I’d just get a knock on the door and, um, it’s like a state probation guy, right? Um, and he was like talking to me and said, you know, introduced himself and asked if anybody was here.
[00:24:50] And I said, no. Um, you know, I was just by myself at that point. And, uh, He, he just kind of like nods and says, okay. [00:25:00] He goes, you mind if we come in? And I was like, sure. You know, I, I didn’t have anything to hide. And so they come in, he asked me to go sit, sit at the table, and when I go sit at the table, he says something in his radio, like, all clear or something like that.
[00:25:15] And then they like bust my door in and like 12 of these like federal officers in all military tactics and helmets and, you know, machine guns all come just raiding through like the house. I, the, we had already told ’em that, or I had already told ’em that nobody else was even here. Like, and I’m sitting on the kitchen table, like talking to ’em.
[00:25:35] It was totally overkill. Totally overreach, unnecessary. And they just came in like crazy deep, you know, kicking in doors of bedrooms, waving, you know, assault rifles everywhere. And you know, this is for a, a licensed medical cannabis operator. So, you know, they came in and, you know, the DEA comes in and waves their badges at me.
[00:25:58] Um, you know, [00:26:00] say that they’re simultaneously rating the dispensary and our managers and my co-founder Ricardo Monte, um, who was by the way, the, like the first Mexican American dispensary owner in the country. So that’s something that he’s proud of. Um, and then basically come up to me and say, okay, like you’re, you’re facing this amount of time, like, uh, do you want to talk to us and make a deal?
[00:26:24] And I’m like, hell no. Like, you know what I’m saying? Like, I’m doing everything legal. Plus, like, I’m from, I’m from California. Like I’m f we, we don’t do that. We don’t talk. Like if, listen, if I get hit, I get hit, I take, I take it on the chin. I’m not like, they really wanted our Mendocino, like suppliers bad because they knew like we had these like, you know, just truckloads coming down from the Emerald Triangle and it was just like, not something that was even on the table.
[00:26:53] So we said, you know, nah, we’re, we’re, we’ll take whatever we got. And they ended up trucking us down to the [00:27:00] local county jail and then shipping us later down to Fresno, California where they have like a federal holding facility. And then it became a long fight to like, it was like a two month or like a month and a half period for me to even bail out.
[00:27:12] Like they wouldn’t let me bail out. My bail was 4 million. Um, yeah, it’s like, you know, when people murder people on the street, they get like million dollar bails. And now I, I’m sitting in, in a federal holding facility in Fresno with a $4 million bond and I’m just like, this is like, they’re really, really making this difficult.
[00:27:31] Really making this hard. Um, and you know, I eventually was able to, to put up the money, to be able to get out. And then fought my case from the street for, for the next two years. At what moment
[00:27:44] Bryan Fields: when you were locked up, did you realize that this was obviously very different? Was it the 4 million and was it conversations with your lawyer who said, Hey, like Luke, I don’t think these guys are playing like, uh, the standard game.
[00:27:54] We think we’re trying to make an example of you. Did you ever feel that? Did those
[00:27:56] Luke Scarmazzo: conversations ever happen? Yeah, it was when they [00:28:00] did what’s called a superseding indictment. When I was initially arrested, I was just arrested for distribution of, of marijuana, which is, you know, it’s not a light charge, but it’s, you know, it’s one of the lighter charges in, in the federal system.
[00:28:13] Um, and then they did what, while I was fighting to get out on bail, they, uh, did what’s called a superseding indictment, and then it came, they came back with an 18 count indictment, and the num, the first charge on this, which is always gonna be your most significant charge, was what’s called a continuing criminal enterprise.
[00:28:31] And it’s. Otherwise known as with the kingpin offense. So it’s, it’s, it’s the same charge that they charge like El Choppa with, or like cartel leaders and stuff like that. So when I saw that, I was like, ah, shit. Like they’re really coming hard on this. Like that charge carried a mandatory minimum of 20 years.
[00:28:49] That doesn’t matter if you’ve never been in trouble before in your whole life. If you get found guilty of that offense, the judge has to sentence you to a minimum of 20 years in prison. So, [00:29:00] and then there was like 17 other charges of like, you know, distribution, manufacturing, you know, manufacturing is in, in the federal system just means you’re growing.
[00:29:09] So it’s distribution, manufacturing, um, uh, an array of like money laundering charges that were totally bogus that they ended up dropping later, but they were just, they just stacked all these charges on top of us. And that’s when I realized like they’re trying to set an example up. They’re trying to make an example out of us and scare the rest of the industry out of.
[00:29:29] Continuing to grow this industry into what it, what it became. So the, it was a real turning point cuz I’ve, I’ve talked to like a lot of, like the dispensary owners and cultivators that were around back then recently. And they were like, dude, when you guys got arrested and they hit you guys with that continuing criminal enterprise, like, I shut my shop down.
[00:29:50] Like I was scared to death or I shut my cultivation facility down because it was a real, you know, it was the first time that someone [00:30:00] had ever got such a significant sentence for a non-violent cannabis offense when you were following state law. So it really, it, had like a chilling effect throughout the whole industry.
[00:30:11] But thank God there was still like a lot of brave people that said, you know, we’re going to continue to push this forward. A lot of brave men and women that continued to grow and, and open dispensaries and, you know, brought us around to where we are today. I mean, there’s a lot of bravery that could be said in terms of, uh, You kind of just keeping your entire network to yourself.
[00:30:31] You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. I mean that was, that was real important. Yeah. That was real important to us, you know, to, you know, be a standup person, you know, take, you know, there’s, there’s no reason to sell out any of your, your guys or your comrades or your, the people that are working with you when, when you’re the one who got hit.
[00:30:50] You know, sometimes you just gotta roll with it and take it and, um, you know, that was really important for us to have honor and, and dignity and, and just be standup in [00:31:00] that type of situation. Do you think that they threw the book at you like that as, uh, maybe an effort to try to get some of that information?
[00:31:06] Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Definitely. That’s how it works. I mean, that’s, that’s the basic premise of how, why they overcharge you. They charge you with, you know, a hundred years worth of charges and then say, okay, you know, if you cooperate, we’ll give you two years, you know, and then to a lot of people, that sounds really appealing.
[00:31:23] Um, You know, to, to us, it just was not something that was ever on the table for us. It was not something that we would ever consider, you know, it was, we felt like, listen, we’re gonna ride this thing all the way out and, uh, let the cards fall where they may. When you first
[00:31:37] Bryan Fields: got your list of charges, did you think that you’d be convicted on those charges or did you think that they would kind of think it through and say, Hey, I was paying my state taxes, I was paying my federal taxes, like there’s some decency here in people.
[00:31:47] Did you ever have those thoughts
[00:31:48] Luke Scarmazzo: on your head? Oh yeah. No, I thought we’d beat them and my, and like my lawyers were like saying like, yo, you guys are gonna beat these guys. Like, we’re gonna field a [00:32:00] jury of California voters who, who, you know, at least, you know, 6 of the 12 or 7 of the 12 actually voted for this law.
[00:32:09] Um, and you know, once we show that we’re able, that we are paying our taxes, had a license and all those things that we would be able to, you know, be victorious and prevail and, and, and. Be vindicated. What I didn’t know was in the federal system, state law is completely irrelevant. We could, like, they basically handicapped us a week before trial and said, you can’t say the words medical marijuana.
[00:32:35] You can’t talk about you having a license. You can’t tell them that you paid taxes. So they basically got to paint us as these like huge Drug kingpins and we just had to take it like, we had to like try to be real creative on how we could get in like certain language or what we were doing. And I mean, it was, it was a kangaroo court man, and they, they rigged it up to where we, we couldn’t even give [00:33:00] them the real circumstances of why we were dispensing cannabis.
[00:33:04] Bryan Fields: You couldn’t even really actively defend yourself for like, following all the rules. Why, why do you think, you think that was obviously intentional that they did that and how, like what did the lawyer say when that ha conversation
[00:33:13] Luke Scarmazzo: happened? I mean, it’s actually the law today too. It’s still in effect like ca in, in touma, feds legalize or it becomes descheduled.
[00:33:23] Um, it doesn’t matter what your re, the Feds basically feel like it doesn’t matter what your reason is for violating federal law, that it’s irrelevant in a federal court. You know, as long as they can prove that you violated the federal narcotics statutes, your reasoning for it is really irrelevant. So, yeah, I, I, I wish I would’ve realized that prior to the, to going into trial that it would be that, um, much of an uphill battle.
[00:33:53] And cuz we were offered 10 years, we were offered a 10 year plea deal before we went into trial, and 10 [00:34:00] years seemed like a lifetime to me at that time. Like, you know what I’m saying? I’d never done no, no prison time before. So I’m like, they’re like, yeah, we’ll, a, we’ll, we’ll give you guys 10 years to, you know, just plead out and avoid trial.
[00:34:11] And, and so I discussed it with, with Ricardo, my co-defendant and brother at the time. And he was like, hell no. And I’m like, bro, 10 years seems like life to me. Like at that time, like now in hindsight, I ended up doing 15 right? Way over what my, my plea, plea deal was. But you know, we thought we’d be victorious in trial.
[00:34:31] We really thought like if we go into trial and we fielded 12 California voters, that we would be able to like show ’em, you know, that we were a legitimate medical cannabis business. And that just wasn’t the case. Man. Throughout
[00:34:48] Bryan Fields: the trial where you continued to be optimistic or was there a moment during the trial where you felt like, Hey, we can’t use these words, we’re kind of feeling like we’re losing momentum.
[00:34:55] Did you ever feel
[00:34:55] Luke Scarmazzo: like that? Yeah, there was definitely a point to where we felt like we were [00:35:00] losing momentum. Um, but then there was, there would be like little like rays of hope, like where we would like, cuz I was on. Bail at that time, right? So I’m, I’m being able to like walk outta courtroom and go to lunch with everybody and stuff like that.
[00:35:13] So I would see some of the jurors sometimes and like some of the jurors would like do things like come by and be like, you know, gimme a thumbs up, or like something crazy. Like I didn’t even know how to react to some of it. Like sometimes I’d be like, uh, act like I didn’t see that, you know, because I didn’t know, like, is that if I was like breaking the law, like by even talking to him, right.
[00:35:31] One, one time in particular, a juror, were going into the elevator and I’m with my daughter’s mother and my daughter, she’s, you know, five years old at the time. And my, my daughter’s mother was kind of complaining about having to take her belts off and all that while we go in and out of the, the, um, metal detectors and security at the be at the front of the courthouse and a juror comes into the elevator with us and he starts like relating to her saying, [00:36:00] yeah, it sucks.
[00:36:00] And then, uh, he said like, oh, is this, is this your daughter? And she’s like, yeah. And then he leans down and tells my daughter, oh, don’t worry, honey, your daddy’s not going anywhere. And I’m just like, whoa. Like for real. So like, we would have like little things like that that would just be like, the trial might not have been going good, but I’m like, man, these jurors seem like they’re on our side though, you know?
[00:36:22] And then after the fact when after we got found guilty, the jurors came forward and said, like, because in a federal system, they can’t know what the penalty is for the charge right now. They could probably go look it up if they did their own research on their own right. But the, you know, nobody tells ’em like, okay, if you find them guilty of count one, this is how much time they get.
[00:36:44] If you find ’em guilty of count two, this is how much time they get. So what they thought was like, yo know, this is just a cannabis case. Like, and these guys obviously have, there’s something around it that looks like they were following some type of state law and stuff like that. So the jurors thought we were gonna get like [00:37:00] probation.
[00:37:00] Or like a year in prison. So when they’re sitting there, you know, giving us the thumbs up and you know, saying, Hey, don’t worry, your, your dad’s not going anywhere. They really thought, like, even if we find, find these guys guilty on this, like nothing’s, they’re gonna get a slap on the wrist and, and, you know, be back doing their thing.
[00:37:18] When they found out that we had a mandatory minimum attached to our, our offense of 20 years, three of ’em come forward and wanted to pull back their verdict. They actually signed affidavits and everything and said, Hey, look, if we would’ve known, like it carried that type of penalty, like we never would’ve voted guilty.
[00:37:37] And the judge was like, too late. Like, you don’t get to have like buyer’s remorse on this. You found him guilty and now it’s my job to sentence him. So
[00:37:47] Bryan Fields: obviously we take, we take the steps forward. You’re found guilty. Are you having conversations with people on the outside in understanding how the industry’s going or how are those relationships gone?
[00:37:56] Luke Scarmazzo: Yeah, I mean, I’m still like, [00:38:00] I’m still tapped in with the culture. I’m still tapped in with a lot of my people that were still in, you know, the industry back then and, and, and now, um, you know, it, it was, it was hard at first because when you go into the federal system, you go with that much time, you go to like, some really high security prisons.
[00:38:18] So, you know, my initial prison, the highest security prison you can get to is called a Penitentiary, a US Penitentiary. Um, and so when you go into those situations, it’s very restrictive. You like, you get 15 minute phone calls, writing letters, you know, is like some of your only communication on the street.
[00:38:39] Um, and then like a few years into it, we got like these email systems where we could kind of communicate with on email and stuff like that. But as the years went by and like I kind of walked my security level down when I finally got to a low security, um, There was like, phones everywhere. Now you’re not supposed to have phones.
[00:38:57] It’s illegal to have phones in there, but like they [00:39:00] were there. Right. So I walk in like my first day of getting to a low facility, right. And I’m kind of wa it’s like a, now it’s not in sales anymore, it’s like a dorm setting. So I’m walking down like this aisle of this dorm and I’m like, look inside to side.
[00:39:13] And there’s like phones on, like, everybody got phones now. So I’m like, okay, cool. Like this is a totally different gig now. So like I’m, I’m getting on, you know, we’re we, we can tap into social media and stuff like that. People can, you know, kind of stay in contact with their family more. Like, people think crazy stuff is happening on the phones, man.
[00:39:35] The, the phones really are just people trying to keep contact with their community and with their families. You know, there’s nobody like setting up no crazy things going on on their phones. Right? So that was, that really enabled me to be able to kind of just stay in contact and be like, okay, like, People can tap in now with me, people can kind of relate to me.
[00:39:55] And it was, it, it kind of like was in a way made it to where [00:40:00] I kind of jumped the learning curve of, of technology and social media. Right? Because, uh, when I went in, I had like the very first iPhone, it was like iPhone one, you know what I’m saying? So like, and it didn’t do like any of the things, like the new phones.
[00:40:15] So when I come out and I got the iPhone 14 pro Max or, or whatever it is, right? I’m looking at this thing like what the, you know what I’m saying? Like how, how do you even use this thing? Like, so the, for real, like the technology is the biggest jump, like from 15 or, or from, from 2004 till now. And, and, and like the industry is night and day two.
[00:40:40] And, and I, we can touch a little bit on that if you’d like, but you know, that’s just it. The, the technology like was the biggest thing because when I left there was like, Payphone on every corner and my space was jumping, you know what I’m saying? Just to kind of give your listeners a little dialup internet on what it was.
[00:40:58] Did you still have dialup internet? [00:41:00] Yeah. Oh yeah. The old aol. Like you’ve got mail.
[00:41:05] Bryan Fields: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we could definitely hop into that. And I’d like to, I think just to put from context, right? You went in and there was payphone boost and now you’re coming out and cannabis is, is legal in multiple states, right?
[00:41:15] What, like what a why disparity? From, from when you first got started were, were you consuming cannabis and inside? Like, can you talk about that at all? And like what type of product quality were you able to tell anyone, Hey, like this is what I got in trouble for. Did
[00:41:26] Luke Scarmazzo: anyone believe you? I’m, I, I don’t know.
[00:41:29] Like if, if I, I could get in trouble or not, but I don’t really care at this point is yes, I smoked every single day I was in prison. Um, I even got a, a dirty test once. If you get a dirty test in, in prison, they throw you in the, in the solitary confinement for like 60 days. It’s, it’s rough. So people don’t, people really try to avoid it.
[00:41:50] But yeah, I smoked in there. Um, In California, we had, you know, we had good, good weed coming in, but when I got transferred over to like Louisiana and Mississippi, [00:42:00] no weapons. Good mean, Ooh, man, they, they got it tough out there. Like they were coming in like, yo, Luke, we got some gas. And I’d look at it and I’d be like, absolutely dog.
[00:42:08] Like this is trash right here. You know what I’m saying? Like, you guys have some of the worst weed around. So yeah, we, we definitely
[00:42:15] Luke Scarmazzo: to help the south, um, you know, level up on their cannabis game down there, which I think they are. I think like the, some of ’em are south. Oklahoma’s doing real good out over there.
[00:42:25] Um, Mississippi I think just came online. Louisiana’s been online for a second on, on the medical stuff. So hopefully that they, they can uh, bring it around and be able to get some good, good cannabis down there cuz people need it down there. Yeah,
[00:42:39] Bryan Fields: absolutely. So let’s fast forward a little bit. You, you get that email and I know you were in disbelief and you had to double check it.
[00:42:44] Take us through that story and then we can hop in to kind of present day cannabis.
[00:42:47] Luke Scarmazzo: Okay. So I had no idea I was getting out. Like, we had stuff in court, but I had, I’ve been had stuff in court for years at that point, right? So [00:43:00] I get up on a Fri, it’s a, it was a Friday morning on, uh, February 3rd, so literally what, like 96 days ago or whatever.
[00:43:10] Um, and I get up and do my normal routine. I make some coffee, you know, getting ready to work out. Um, and I log onto that email system that, that I was telling you about. Um, and I see like just a crazy number of emails that are on there, and I’m like, damn, what the, you know what I saying? That’s, that’s kind of weird.
[00:43:30] I don’t usually get that many emails, so I click on it. The very first email is from my, my attorney, Carrie Dent from King and Spalding in dc. She’s a beast, by the way. I know like most people can’t afford an attorney like that. And I just got blessed to be able to work with them pro bono, but like, I’m telling you, she is brilliant.
[00:43:49] She’s like a sweet looking, you know, lady that you would never think like, okay, like she’s anything other than just that right [00:44:00] pit bull when it comes to the law I’m talking about. This lady is brilliant. But anyway, you know, shout out to Carrie though. But yeah, so I get a message from Carrie and the subject line says, you’re a free man.
[00:44:13] And I just like stare at this thing for literally like five minutes and I’m just reading it because man, Brian, it took so long to get to that point. Like so many disappointments, so many almost theirs. Um, you know, my family had gone through like the roller coaster of oh, he’s gonna get out. Oh, he is not getting out To the point where I didn’t even want, like, wanna share like news with him of like, Hey, we might get a ruling or anything like that.
[00:44:41] I would just kind of keep it close to the vest because I just didn’t want to disappoint him anymore. Um, But when I’m sitting there reading this email, it’s just like washing over me and just thinking to myself like, man, is, is it really over? So I log out, I go put my coffee down in my cell. I’m [00:45:00] standing in my cell for like a couple minutes and I said, man, I gotta go back and read that again.
[00:45:04] Like, did that really say what that said? Like, so I could, or am I tripping right now? So I go back, reread the email, um, and yeah, it said you’re getting out. And I then I saw a couple o other emails from Weldon, um, a few other people, um, my mom and dad of course. And then I went, I go over to my workout crew and I’m like, hell guys, I ain’t working out today.
[00:45:29] And they were like, what? Why? And I didn’t wanna say anything to them at first yet until their prison made it official. Right? Because like, I’m still like in disbelief kind of right. So I’m like, I don’t know, man. I gotta talk to my lawyer and, and see what’s going on. Well, like, you know, an hour later prison calls me into like the back offices and they say, Hey look, you’ve been granted the immediate release.
[00:45:48] Um, we gotta have you off the compound in like three hours. So I, when I come out of that room, like everybody knows now, like the whole unit, there’s like 150 like hardened [00:46:00] convicts that are sitting there hugging me and laughing and everybody’s like clapping and shit like that. Overwhelming love from all the dudes in there.
[00:46:07] And, uh, I have like 15 years worth of stuff in my cell, right? All, you know, the music stuff, clothes, you know, just stuff that you accumulate over the years. Right? So they tell me to go pack it up. I said, man, I’m not packing a thing in here. I said, you guys can have all this shit. I will, I literally will walk out with what I have on right now.
[00:46:27] You know, I just grabbed like my pictures, my family pictures and some of my legal paperwork and, and literally walked out of the door with just that. I mean,
[00:46:35] Bryan Fields: incredible. Right? I can only imagine for the ups and downs that you faced, like that feeling of seeing the email and then wondering to yourself like, is this another time of disappointment or is this for real?
[00:46:45] And I can only imagine how, how happy you must have felt when you recognized it was real. So you’re in Mississippi, right?
[00:46:51] Luke Scarmazzo: Yeah, I was in Mississippi. So how do we get home that, that’s actually funny thing, right? It is like, so [00:47:00] they have to get you back to where your release residence is. But they wanted me, they, they on, they only will pay for a bus ticket.
[00:47:08] So the bus ticket was gonna be like 66 hours or something crazy like that. I’m like, I am not sitting on no Greyhound bus for 66 hours while I’m waiting to get home. Like, what? With how I feel right now. So you can, you can get a plane ticket, but you gotta pay for it yourself. So I call, I call Weldon, um, over at Mission Green.
[00:47:28] I was like, you know, he already knows what’s going on. I’m like, Hey, we gotta get a plane ticket. I said, cuz I can’t sit on a bus for three days and drive back home. Like I’ll go crazy in that thing. Um, so if we got a plane ticket, I go to the airport. I called my daughter. I had talked to her earlier that day and told her I was getting out.
[00:47:46] She went crazy, started crying and all that stuff, but I didn’t talk to her the rest of the day. And when I’m in the airport, I call her and I’m like, Hey, I’m in the airport. I said, where you at? And she was like, I’m in the airport. I’m like, what do you mean? And you’re in the airport. She’s like, I’m coming to see you.[00:48:00]
[00:48:00] So she, she literally jumped the next plane. My daughter’s out in Newark, actually. She lives in Jersey City. So, uh, she jumped the next plane at Newark Airport to California and almost beat me to California. She, I think she was like 10 minutes behind me when I landed. So that was dope, man. Just being able to reconnect with her after so long, uh, was really the best thing.
[00:48:22] Brian, I mean, I’m talking about like, I missed her so much. She was my number one advocate, never wavered, was like in, grew up in like a prison visiting room, you know what I mean? When most girls would’ve been like shopping or going to the mall, she’s sitting there supporting her dad eating frozen burritos.
[00:48:41] You know what I mean? So, man, much love to my daughter. She, she held me down. Um, and just to be able to reunite with her and reconnect with her right there at the airport, like on my first few hours of being out was just like the biggest blessing that I ever received. [00:49:00] So after that initial like news you
[00:49:04] Bryan Fields: get home, is it like the first week he kind of just like indulged
[00:49:07] Luke Scarmazzo: in regular everyday life stuff and then kind of walk us through those like kind of couple weeks after you get out?
[00:49:14] Yeah. Um, like my main thing that I want to do, like there was all kinds of stuff lined up for me, right. And media stuff and you know, meeting with people and you know, talking business and all those things, right. But my main focus was like, I want to just reconnect with my family. It had been so long since I had been able to just be with them, you know, other than being like supervised.
[00:49:35] And then with Covid and the restrictions that happened with, with, you know, the whole pandemic. It’s like we weren’t allowed visits for years. So we, I literally had not seen my family. I think I saw ’em once in like five years, you know, so just being able to be, reconnect with them and you know, just. Eat some food, like literally on the drive home, I, I, I see a Pizza [00:50:00] hut and I’m like, pull over.
[00:50:01] Like, pizza Hut is not my favorite pizza, but I just wanted a pizza. It didn’t matter what it was, like, lit. Literally. Could have been a little Caesars or something and I would’ve been like, yo, pull over. We’re getting a pizza. So I, you know, food of course, like I wanted to just eat as much like of different food that I could, because everything you hear about prison food is true.
[00:50:18] Let me just go ahead and just say that for the, for the audience out there, it is like, prison food sucks. It’s terrible. So one of the first things I wanted to do is just eat a bunch of good food. The crazy thing was like, I was looking forward to being like in a bed, right? And, and, and sleeping in like a big comfortable bed.
[00:50:36] I lay down in the bed that first night. And I felt like I was like drowning in the thing. Like, cuz you know, beds in prison are like, they’re on steel, right? And you got a mattress that’s like, probably like this thick, you know what I mean? So for years and years I’m used to sleeping on this really hard surface.
[00:50:52] So I lay on this like big seay Posturepedic bed and I felt like I was like in quicksand, like I c I slept like crap that whole night because I’m like, [00:51:00] this bed is too soft. Yeah, it was crazy. But I’m, I’m used to it now though. I love the soft bed now, but man, it was, it was, it was a, definitely a game changer.
[00:51:11] What was it like
[00:51:11] Bryan Fields: checking out California’s cannabis scene?
[00:51:15] Luke Scarmazzo: Man, eye-opening. Just, I mean, like I said, I had kind of, you know, kept my, my thumb
[00:51:21] Luke Scarmazzo: the pulse of it throughout, throughout my incarceration. But to come out and actually see it, like, you know, I went to Benga where I, where I connected with you guys in Miami.
[00:51:31] That was dope. Um, and then I just got, got back from Hall of Flowers, uh, last week. That was crazy. Just to see like how much the industry has just blown up and become accepted, you know what I mean? Like, I’m talking to like stocker moms and stuff that are talking about their vape pens now. You know what I mean?
[00:51:50] And stuff like that, like that like would never have happened back in oh four. Like they would’ve never, like, even if they were smoking cannabis, they never would’ve admitted to it, like in [00:52:00] front of other people. Right? So that is dope. I, I love like how it’s being just researched and be, people are being able to use it therapeutically and medicinally for array of different things, you know, because I really think like all medical can, or all cannabis use is medical in some way, right?
[00:52:18] Like, we’re either, you know, helping with our anxiety, helping with sleep, helping just relax, helping to g just vibe out on like a party scene or whatever it is, right? So, I just love that it’s more being more accepted out here. And the only thing that I would have to say is like the government has in California has gotten way too involved.
[00:52:38] Now, we wanted like government regulation back then in oh four, right? Because it was real loose. And I even felt like to have like a cool framework to where we could work within would be dope, right? But they have overregulated this plant out here to where we’re, we’re seeing like double and triple taxation on, on cultivators and dispensary owners [00:53:00] to where they’re really making it hard to survive as a business owner.
[00:53:03] So that part is really kind of, kind of, uh, you know, a depressing thing that I hope that like I can use my story and kind of advocate to help change the part of that too. You know, freeing the people that are incarcerated for cannabis is of course my primary goal that before anything right? But at the same time, we have to make this industry sustainable.
[00:53:24] We have to make it to where people can be viable business owners out here if, if we want this to survive and continue to go forward. Are there any
[00:53:32] Bryan Fields: restrictions or ways that you can’t be around the plant, obviously, uh, with you being in, in, in trouble with the cannabis, I would wonder if, if the law was a little more hesitant for you to be around it again.
[00:53:43] Was there any sort of policies around that?
[00:53:46] Luke Scarmazzo: Yeah, so I got what’s called five years supervised release, which is basically like parole or probation. Right. And within that, my, my restrictions is I can’t do any [00:54:00] plant touching. I can’t smoke. I’m, I’m tested three times a month and all that stuff, which is to me like, okay, the federal judge who let me out, Dale draws right.
[00:54:11] Thank you, Dale. Love you. But, um, the judge who let me out, let me out because. Of the injustice of my case and because the changing legal landscape surrounding cannabis and that it would’ve continued to be, you know, unjust for me to serve that long sentence. Right? So when I come out, I still have this five years probation that was attached to me when I was sentenced back in 2008.
[00:54:36] So it doesn’t make any sense. Like, so one, one of the things that Carrie is gonna, uh, Carrie Dent is gonna c try to do for me is to try to get the supervised release drop because it’s, it just, it’s, it’s, it’s unreasonable. It doesn’t make any sense to, you know, for me to be able to have these restrictions when I wasn’t breaking the law.
[00:54:58] You know what I mean? So hopefully we [00:55:00] can get that lifted, but in the meantime, like I’m just participating in whatever capacity I can, I’m get, you know, I’m doing, um, you know, a lot of the advocacy work, um, came on board with Glasshouse to be able to kind of steer that ship and, uh, use the resources of.
[00:55:17] Glasshouse to make an impact in that space. And they’ve been, it’s awesome because they’ve been super supportive of that. And it’s just good to be in a situation where people are as passionate about a subject that I am, you know, and, and releasing anyone who’s incarcerated for cannabis is huge. Um, talk
[00:55:37] Bryan Fields: about your role with them and talk about the first experience of you visiting their unicorn
[00:55:41] Luke Scarmazzo: uh, greenhouse.
[00:55:43] Okay. Yeah. So, um, I was brought on by Glasshouse as their lead brand ambassador to kind of spearhead, um, the, you know, social justice wing of the company. Um, they’ve been super welcoming, like Graham and [00:56:00] Kyle advocated for me when I was still incarcerated, and that meant a lot to me because there was not a lot of large companies that were sitting there saying, free the cannabis prisoners or saying anyone’s name and stuff like that.
[00:56:11] So when you had a large company like Glasshouse and they were actually. You know, raising awareness and vocalizing like, Hey, look, these guys, Parker Coleman needs to be free. Jose Valero, Luke Scar, Maso, like, and they’re saying our names at these different events and, and on film and stuff like that. It meant a lot to me.
[00:56:31] So I, I wanted to work with them when I got out. So it was a awesome relationship. Weldon Angelos Link linked me up and they brought me on as lead brand ambassador. And from day one, like, it’s just been an awesome relationship where they’ve been really supportive of, you know, making sure that we make a real impact in this space.
[00:56:53] Right. So I really am happy that Glasshouse recognized that I could make a [00:57:00] contribution in this space, and we’re gonna make probably the biggest impact that any company has ever made. That’s, that’s dope. Number one. So about, I’d say a month after I was, uh, uh, brought on board, You know, they, they said, Hey, we’re gonna come down and bring you down to company headquarters and do the onboarding and stuff like that.
[00:57:20] So I’m like, cool. So I fly down there, got to see their facility, which is like, nothing I’ve ever seen in the history of man, like this facility is like a cultivator dream. I mean, I I if you, if you, they’re gonna be doing tours, I think of it soon. So if you have the opportunity to go down and tour this thing, Brian, if you haven’t, or you know anybody who’s listening, if you want to go down and tour Glasshouses Farms, you have to do it.
[00:57:51] If you are like ever been in the space or if you’re just like cannabis, like this thing is like, it’s like [00:58:00] its own planet and it’s like all growing cannabis on it. Like it is that big and it’s just, it’s awe, it’s awe inspiring. Like when I grew, when I grew my first. Cycle of cannabis in 95 when I was, you know, just 15 years old.
[00:58:14] Like, I’m growing in my closet. You know what I’m saying? I got like a few plants in my closet, right? And then, you know, a big show back then for us was like a 40 or 50 lighter. That was like, mesmerizing. We’re like, damn, you’re growing like this whole warehouse. Like, that’s crazy. Like this is the biggest grow ever.
[00:58:31] These down there, they have 5.5 million square feet. That’s what the M million square feet like the, the growing on that level is huge. And what they’re trying to do is they’re really doing it sustainably. You know, they’re using solar power. It’s a completely self-sufficient grow using the sun. Um, and, you know, they’re gonna be positioned to make a, uh, really, really big, uh, [00:59:00] Contribution to on the national scale once we can get some federal legalization in interstate commerce.
[00:59:05] Um, so Glasshouse is, is, is awesome. What the, the visionaries that they have there are awesome. What they Graham and Kyle have put together over there is something that’s very impressive. And, you know, I’m, I’m happy to be a part of the team down there and I’m, I’m really excited about what we can do to, uh, bring justice and, and, and bring, you know, just the advocacy side of, of the company.
[00:59:30] Like really to, to fruition. Jay?
[00:59:33] Bryan Fields: Yeah. Shout out to Graham and Kyle for absolutely killing it. Um, would like to know, in your opinion, are there still others that are facing similar charges for non-violent cannabis offenders? And can you kind of share some information about that?
[00:59:44] Luke Scarmazzo: Oh yeah. Um, I mean, there’s thousands of people that are sitting in federal prison right now for a non-violent cannabis charge.
[00:59:51] Um, and we can’t forget about them. Like, you know, Parker, free Parker Coleman, uh, free Bubba Johnson. [01:00:00] Free. Edwin Rubis Free. Frank Rogers. Free. Danny Trevino, free. Jose Valero. And then there’s a b. There’s hundreds of women too. Uh, Mandy Lee Carlson, uh, Carrie Pearson. Uh, Deana Martin. Like, I mean, I could literally use the rest of your show and, and name people.
[01:00:22] That’s how, like sad of a situation. It is. Um, but one of the things I’m really excited about is that, you know, now that I’ve been out, like now it really begins, you know, now the work, the hard work really begins. Like, I’m out, I’m cool, I’m free, and that’s great and everything, but there’s still my brothers and sisters that are sitting in a prison cell for a non-violent cannabis, offense.
[01:00:50] What everybody does in California every day. All these big companies. What they’re doing every day is what landed these people in a [01:01:00] prison cell. There’s people, there’s moms and daughters, there’s brothers and sisters and sons that are sitting in a federal prison cell. Like, I can’t stress that enough.
[01:01:10] Like we, you know, we, there’s the taxation stuff going on. There’s stuff in the industry that, that we need changed, um, you know, regulations and all that stuff. But before we do any of that, the banking, you know, safe banking needs to pass. But before we do any of that, man, we have to let these people out of prison.
[01:01:29] Like we can’t continue to like, talk about cannabis and talk about forwarding the, the industry without, without freeing the people that are still incarcerated. When people hear your,
[01:01:41] Bryan Fields: when people hear your story and Weldons, do they understand the implications? Do they, do they recognize, especially people on DC when you guys are having those active conversations, how, how is that happening And what, what’s the disconnect?
[01:01:55] Luke Scarmazzo: I don’t think they know. I mean, when, when I share my story, like, okay, like for [01:02:00] example, even in, in Miami, like we’re at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, right? And when I got up and spoke and, and told my story and shared it, you know, with the thousands of people that were there, like the rest of the day, people came up to me and said, we had no idea that there was a licensed operator that did, was serving 22 year sentence in federal prison.
[01:02:25] Like we had no idea. This is our people, right? This is the cannabis space. Like if anybody should know about that situation, it should be, you know, our own industry. So when I saw that it was really eye-opening and I said, wow, like I really have to continue to humanize my story and share it with as many people as possible on as many platforms as possible.
[01:02:47] Because if the cannabis industry is that ignorant to the fact that we have these situations going on, The re you know, regular Joe and Jane citizen, like they’re really gonna be ignorant to it. So that’s why it’s so [01:03:00] important, like for us to meet with lawmakers, go to DC and talk to the people. Like I was just in the state capitol, uh, on Monday and, you know, two days ago and meeting with lawmakers and senators and assembly people and you know, sharing my story and letting ’em know like, hey look, this is something that we have to make an impact in this space.
[01:03:19] We can’t continue to let it go on. Um, and we will be in DC soon and I’ll be doing the same thing there. And the more that I can be able to just humanize my story and share it with people and let ’em know that we have these situations and are continuing today, that must stop. Um, I think that we can really make an impact.
[01:03:39] Another thing too is that my story is, Is really impactful in the way that it can kind of touch like both aisles, right? Like yeah, on the democratic side, you have the social justice aspect of it and you know, of being, you know, a victim and a, a, a member of a community that has been [01:04:00] harmed by prohibition.
[01:04:01] But then on the, you know, the right wing and, and republican side and conservative side is we have, you know, government overreach and fiscal, fiscal conservative Z um, you know, and, and uh, you know, state’s rights and all those things that kind of tap into to all the stuff that’s in the Republican wheelhouse too.
[01:04:18] So if I can go over and my story can kind of be like the uniting factor of both of those things, I think that will be very impactful and something that we can use to move the needle forward. I completely agree. Have you noticed, uh, the same kind of empathy from individuals outside of the cannabis community when you share your story with them?
[01:04:36] Um, they’re blown away. They’re like blown away because they’re like, they don’t understand it. You know what I mean? They’re just like, how were you? Like they think they’re, a lot of times they think there’s had to be something more to it. Like, what were you doing? Were you selling like kilos of heroin out the back of the store or something?
[01:04:52] Like, how did it, how did this happen? So yeah, like when I, when I share it with just like your lay person out there, you know, [01:05:00] they’re, they’re blown away that this happens. That this happens in their name too. This is my state. My case was the United States versus Luke Scar, Mazo, that’s the people of the United States.
[01:05:09] So these incarcerations and these prosecutions are happening in the name of the people. So when you kind of, when I share that with just, you know, your peop your people that are outside of the industry, they’re just blown away by it, man. They’re literally like, can’t wrap their minds around, you know, these type of injustices happening right now today.
[01:05:31] Any music
[01:05:32] Bryan Fields: collab on the docket
[01:05:33] Luke Scarmazzo: going forward? Um, yeah, I’m actually. In the studio now. Um, So I’m, I’m trying to tap in with, with some people I’d love to work with, like, you know, we got some, some people that are regional around here and, and on the national scale, like Mazi. Mazi just signed with Yo Gotti.
[01:05:51] I’d love to work with him. Um, yuk mouth of the Looney is my dog, you know what I’m saying? I, I’d love to get back with him and work. E 40 is, is [01:06:00] the big homie, you know what I’m saying? I love 40, 40 has always been a g in it. Go ride the whip, right? Yeah. You already know. Go ride the whip. So yeah, no, like I, I’m definitely getting back in, in the swing of music.
[01:06:14] I hadn’t had time, like up until like just. Really last week to be able to actually sit in a studio and, and, and vibe with some producers. And they’re, I mean, they’re literally just handing me a bunch of beats and they’re like, dude, go to work. And I’m like, listen, I wish I had the time, like it was back in the day for me to just sit in here and just vibe out and create a whole album.
[01:06:33] But it’s gonna come, we’re gonna do some things for sure. I’m super excited about that too, because I love music, man. Music is my thing. It’s been my thing since I was a kid, since I could first touch the keys of a piano. And, uh, so yeah, it’s, it’s something I’m passionate about and it’s like to really have like a true cannabis revolution, right?
[01:06:53] We gotta have a soundtrack to that thing. Amen. Amen.
[01:06:58] Bryan Fields: You could sum up your [01:07:00] experience in a main takeaway or lesson learned to pass onto the next generation.
[01:07:03] Luke Scarmazzo: What would it be?
[01:07:09] Man, that’s tough. I would have to say like, number one, do not give up. Do not give up no matter what the odds are against you. Um, and just continue to do what you believe. You know what I mean? Stand up for what you believe in. Cannabis and medical cannabis was something that I was passionate about, that I love.
[01:07:34] I love the plant. I love all the things that it can do. Um, and even though like I was being told I had to say it was bad or I had to, you know, be remorseful or I had to, uh, you know, discount everything that, that it, it could do, I wouldn’t do it because I was that passionate about it. I believe in it that much and I stood up for what [01:08:00] I believed in, and I will still continue to do that today.
[01:08:02] So, number one, never give up. Stand up for what you believe in and just persevere and you’ll come out on the other side. That’s really well said. All
[01:08:14] Bryan Fields: right, prediction time. Luke, what is the number one way that people can align with your mission and help others to get freed for non-violent cannabis
[01:08:23] Luke Scarmazzo: offenders?
[01:08:25] Okay, number one, go to project mission green.org. Tap in, find out where, how you can become involved. If you’re a dispensary or a business owner, you can get involved in the Roundup program that we got with Mission Green Alliance. Um, follow us on social media. My social media is exactly how my name’s spelled.
[01:08:44] Luke Scar, Mazo, L U K E s C A R M A Z Z O. Um, yeah, and just continue to tap in with us and we’re gonna be launching a podcast soon too. That’s gonna be super dope. So stay, stay tuned for that. And, uh, yeah, just [01:09:00] support the companies that support us, man. Sup. If you see a company that is, is giving to this cause, support their products, support what they do, and, and, and we can, if we all come together on this, We can really make a change.
[01:09:16] Really. Well said, Kelly. I mean, I
[01:09:18] Bryan Fields: just wanna second
[01:09:18] Luke Scarmazzo: everything Luke said and then also, you know, reach out to your representatives, your local representatives, and Yes. You know,
[01:09:24] Bryan Fields: make phone calls, write emails. I mean, it’s
[01:09:27] Luke Scarmazzo: ridiculous that 70 plus percent of the US population thinks that cannabis should be legal and it’s not federally, so.
[01:09:35] Yeah. Yeah. And, and just to, to dovetail off that, your federal representatives, your federal congressmen, your federal senators, make sure you write to them. Tell ’em that you support federal cannabis legalization and support interstate commerce and support these crazy, uh, two 80 e restrictions on these businesses that they can’t write off their costs like a regular business.
[01:09:58] So yeah, tap in with, [01:10:00] with them on the federal level, on the local level, on the state level, and just continue to push that forward. I’m glad you mentioned that, Kelly. Yeah. For me, I
[01:10:08] Bryan Fields: think just sharing your story, Luke, I think if, if you hear this story, I, I think most people will probably not have an understanding on, on, on exactly what happened.
[01:10:17] And I think just by sharing that story will change people’s perspectives and recognizing that change needs to happen and we need to kind of move forward on these areas because what happened to you was extremely unfortunate and it’s inspiring for, for others to help tell that story and appreciate you being vulnerable and honest with here today because it’s a really, really powerful
[01:10:34] Luke Scarmazzo: story.
[01:10:35] Yeah. Thank you man. I had a great time and uh, I appreciate you guys having me, man. Yeah, thank you. We, we’ll only
[01:10:40] Bryan Fields: get all in the show. It was fun. Thanks for taking the time, Luke.