President Donald Trump started giving out Christmas presents early: pardons to dozens of Americans.
Angelos had been convicted of selling a half-pound of weed in Utah to federal agents and sentenced to 55 years; he received a reduction in his sentence and compassionate release in 2016, after thirteen years in federal prison. He was at home in Utah with his fiancée and stepson when he got a call from Senator Mike Lee, one of his primary supporters, telling him he'd received a full pardon. “I thanked Mike over and over,” he recalls. “I owe my freedom to Senator Mike Lee, President Trump and every other person who supported my freedom and pardon.”
Prison reform has been Angelos's main mission over the last few years; he's been working to get nonviolent offenders convicted of marijuana-related offenses released through Mission Green, the organization he founded with music executive Big Hollis, aka Michael Goldstein. With the pardon, he thinks he'll be able to do more. “I don’t have to carry around that burden of being labeled as a felon,” Angelos explains. “America's corrections procedures can keep punishing an offender long past their debt to society is paid for their crime. If a person gets a felony in America, that felony can prevent them from getting federal funding to go to school or prevent them from obtaining employment or housing in some situations.”
For example, being on federal parole had prevented Angelos from traveling to places outside of Utah to meet with the families he advocates for or push other programs through Mission Green. “Receiving this pardon is a fresh start for me,” he says.
And he's optimistic that Trump will continue granting pardons to people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Angelos recently spoke with federal prisoner Lance Gloor, who is serving a ten-year federal sentence for his conviction on marijuana charges linked to a cannabis dispensary that he owned in Washington State. Gloor had applied for a compassionate release and is hoping that he's on Trump's list, too.
Governor Jared Polis recently signed an executive order pardoning individuals convicted of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in Colorado. But that still leaves many people with a felony record for possessing over an ounce. Polis's move was “a start of a movement,” Angelos says, and he's encouraging the governor not to stop there.
Angelos may be free, but others are not.
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