Clemency activist, hashish entrepreneur, and hip-hop producer Weldon Angelos was one in all 15 folks pardoned by President Trump on December 22—the record consists of former Republican Representatives Duncan Hunter (CA) and Chris Collins (NY), in addition to 4 former Blackwater contractors.
Angelos, who’s the son of Greek immigrants and from Salt Lake Metropolis, UT, was sentenced to 55 years with out the potential for parole in 2004 for promoting hashish to an undercover officer three consecutive occasions, totaling $350. As a result of he had a hid gun on him on the time of his arrest, he was topic to increased necessary minimal sentencing and have become incarcerated in 2004.
“I’m extraordinarily grateful to the President for the second likelihood,” Angelos says to Forbes. “I’m a agency believer of mercy and second probabilities.”
Angelos’ sentence was controversial from the beginning. Throughout his trial, his different profession as a music producer and founding father of hip-hop label Extravagant was used in opposition to him—prosecutors painted the image of a gang member and a big-time drug vendor. That he refused a 15-year plea discount was additionally used in opposition to him.
Whereas he was in jail, his case grew to become a trigger célèbre. The federal decide presiding over his trial, Paul Cassell, lamented the minimums he was pressured to abide by throughout sentencing and ultimately wrote to President Obama on Angelos’ behalf in 2016. “I write you because the decide who sentenced Weldon Angelos to a 55-year necessary minimal jail time period for non-violent drug offenses,” Cassell wrote to the then-President.
“The sentence was unjust, uncruel, and even irrational…as a result of his appeals have been exhausted, the one resolution for Angelos is a Presidential commutation. I urge you to swiftly commute his sentence,” he wrote. Cassell additionally famous within the letter that the case and its harsh conclusion impressed him to retire from the bench and return to educating regulation and dealing on behalf of crime victims.
In Angelos’ nook had been senators Cory Booker, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, jail reform advocate Alice Johnson, former U.S. Legal professional Bret Tolman, businessman and philanthropist Charles Koch, recording artists Alicia Keys and Snoop Dogg, and plenty of extra celebrities, activists, and others. Via coordinated lobbying efforts, which included a letter from The Structure Mission, ultimately Obama commuted his sentence and Angelos was launched from a medium-security federal penitentiary in Mendota, CA in 2016.
Since his launch, Angelos has turn out to be a clemency activist and a political operative of his personal. With significant funding from the Koch brothers, in addition to different celebrities and activists, he began The Weldon Project (TWP). TWP is a non-profit group that advocates on behalf of presently or previously incarcerated drug offenders who had been sentenced to jail for nonviolent drug offenses.
TWP and its subsidiary, Mission Green, which is particularly geared in the direction of hashish incarceration, targets “coverage reform, legislative advocacy, and impactful direct service packages,” with a purpose of getting drug offenders out and aiding launched people rebuild their lives via reentry packages. Along with securing launch for many individuals imprisoned on drug costs (There have been“just a few dozen,” commutations and pardons, Angelos estimates), the group was instrumental in securing passage of The First Step Act, which Trump signed into regulation in 2018. Lately, Angelos received a shoutout in a Ty Dolla Sign song for his work on the rapper’s brother’s clemency case.
The organizations additionally boast a California-based hashish retail firm known as Reeform Hashish, which was based in 2019 and offers monetary assist for the initiatives, in addition to offers month-to-month funds on to commissary accounts of these incarcerated for hashish possession. Different corporations within the business, like Kush Co., Cresco, Calyx Manufacturers, and Ibs Distribution, have had a hand in bringing Reeform to market, every giving a portion of proceeds to the group. Angelos says Kush Co., specifically, even gave the model most popular pricing on packaging and different provides, in addition to favorable pricing and credit score phrases to assist Reeform get off the bottom.
Angelos’ 2016 launch from jail gave him most of his life again, however not all—he was nonetheless a convicted felon. Now that he’s absolutely pardoned, he can proceed engaged on constructing a life that was solely a dream whereas he was nonetheless locked up.
“All my civil rights have been restored,” Angelos says. “I not should test that field that claims I’m a felon on practically each job software, financial institution mortgage, et cetera. I couldn’t lease residences or properties in good areas with a felony. I can go searching once more. It’s like my federal legal case by no means occurred.”
Angelos is aware of that, regardless of how a lot he might deserve the pardon, he’s fortunate. “I consider pardons and commutations needs to be so common that they don’t generate headlines. We’d like extra of this, and I hope the President reveals mercy on these unjustly serving time for cannabis-related offenses,” he says. “My group has introduced many qualifying candidates to his consideration and I’m hopeful we’ll see a few of them launched earlier than he leaves workplace.”