Glass House Brands CEO calls for pot sentencing reform

The two-year journey of a 2020 traffic stop through the justice system would end with the CEO of one of California’s largest cannabis companies taking a stand in support of the accused. The testimony, however, was not enough to sway the judge.

According to police reports, when the Honda Accord was pulled over just north of Louisville, Georgia, a deputy approached the driver’s door and smelled a strong odor of marijuana. During a search of the vehicle, approximately 4.5 pounds of marijuana, three handguns and over $15,600 in US dollars were found.

Two men and a woman were taken into custody. One of those men was Jose Valero Jr.

At the time of Valero’s recent sentencing, Glass House Brands CEO Kyle Kazan would join Valero’s family in supporting their son, brother, father and uncle. Kazan tried to put into perspective for the judge how ridiculous it was that Valero was forced to serve between 5 and 10 years under federal cannabis law when companies like his would move 180,000 dry pounds of cannabis per year when their new 1.7 million square feet of grow space soon begins to harvest.

Kazan with the Valero family in court

A cop to the cannabis CEO’s lawyer

Kazan was a policeman for 10 years. He made his debut in 1991 in Torrance. He eventually became involved in gang-fighting and drug detection and eradication until he left law enforcement in 1999 to focus on his real estate investment business.

In 2010, Kazan joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s speakers bureau. There he joined former members of local and federal law enforcement who spoke out against the War on Drugs and its impact on society which they observed first hand. The group was renamed the Law Enforcement Action Partnership a few years ago, but they are still working very hard to end drug prohibition. Its members have been a mainstay of public hearings on cannabis and drug policy for two decades since its inception in 2002, just north of Boston. [Full Disclosure: I was an intern there over Christmas break in 2005.]

Kazan notes in the video that he doesn’t think many cannabis CEOs have a background in law enforcement. And you could also say that Kazan has been more vocal on the side of reform than any of his law enforcement peers who have made their way into cannabis. He is certainly not alone.

The sentencing hearing

“That’s who I am, Your Honor,” Kazan had planned to tell the judge. “Compared to the amount of cannabis I’m carrying, what you’re about to convict this person for is absolute insanity.”

Kazan thinks that just putting that in the judge’s head will be beneficial in some of these cases. Unfortunately for Valero, the judge will end up sentencing him to seven years for the cannabis offense. Kazan tried to argue to the judge that he was talking about miniscule amounts of cannabis in the grand scheme of things.

“It didn’t matter,” Kazan said.

Kazan called the situation a general embarrassment and called on President Joe Biden to take action.

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