Weldon Angelos, president of The Weldon Project, is leveraging celebrity support to call attention to the estimated 40,000 Americans still behind bars on cannabis-related charges. He joined forces with legal scholar Erik Luna to petition President Biden to pardon all those serving time for a nonviolent marijuana offense. Signatories include celebrities such as Drake, Killer Mike, Deion Sanders, Al Harrington, and Kevin Garnett. “The harms of incarceration are obvious, but the pains of federal marijuana convictions transcend prison walls, making it more difficult for someone to get a job, access affordable housing, and receive an education,” the letter states. “Enough is enough. No one should be locked up in federal prison for marijuana.”
According to Luna, whose work investigates the mounting social costs of incarceration, “It’s time for the federal government to say the drug war is over when it comes to marijuana.” Weldon Angelos, who started the Weldon Project in 2016 after serving 13 years of 55 year prison term for selling less than $1000 worth of marijuana, was pardoned by President Trump at the end of his term and wants to see the same courtesy extended to incarcerated marijuana offenders who weren’t so lucky. As the letter points out, such categorical pardons aren’t without precedent. In 1977, President Carter issued an unconditional pardon to all Vietnam War draft evaders on his first day in office.
Individuals such as Luke Scaramazzo, who is 14 years into a 22 year sentence for operating a state compliant medical dispensary, are here to remind President Biden that he was elected with the understanding that he would use the power of the Executive Branch to alleviate the devastating costs of the war on drugs when it comes to cannabis. “I pray the president fulfills his campaign promise of releasing cannabis prisoners and expunging our records,” says Scaramazzo. “The country is urging him to act.”
The rapper Ralo, whose clemency campaign has long been a cause célèbre in the hip-hop community, points out the hypocrisy of allowing corporate cannabis companies to get richer while many legacy operators remain incarcerated. “I appreciate my friends and peers in the hip-hop community, especially Drake, supporting my clemency because it’s just not right that corporations are allowed to violate federal law and become millionaires while people like myself go to prison for years,” Ralo said. “This is hypocrisy. I hope that Joe Biden honors his campaign promise and grants us clemency without delay so I can return to my family and community.”