WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) announced that Weldon Angelos has endorsed his bipartisan HOPE Act, which he introduced with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Angelos is the founder of the Weldon Project, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of currently or formerly incarcerated Americans who were sentenced to prison for nonviolent drug offenses. In 2004, he was sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in federal prison for a first-time, cannabis-related offense. Due to the support of both President Obama and President Trump, his sentence was commutated, and he was fully pardoned.
“I still find it hard to believe that I spent 13 years in prison for a product that is legally sold and consumed in countless jurisdictions throughout the nation,” said Angelos. “And while I’m thankful that President Trump issued my pardon in 2020, the reality is that myself and so many others continue to carry the burden of unjust criminal records from the War on Drugs. As someone who has directly suffered from the criminalization of cannabis, I know how desperately millions across the country need expungement relief and am grateful that Reps. Joyce and Ocasio-Cortez have bridged the political divide to offer a bipartisan solution that will help provide just that.”
“I support the HOPE Act and applaud the immediate relief it would provide to Americans across the country suffering from state and local-level convictions,” Angelos continued. “Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer should bring this bill up for a vote as soon as possible so that President Biden can sign it in to law and begin to fulfill and make good on promises made.”
In 2003, Angelos sold a total of $350 worth of cannabis to a confidential informant on three occasions, which prosecutors turned into 20 distinct federal crimes. Despite being a father of three with no prior convictions, Angelos was convicted on 16 of those counts and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in federal prison. The presiding judge would later call Angelos’ sentence “cruel, unjust, and even irrational” and “one of those rare cases where the system has malfunctioned.”
After an unprecedented, bipartisan campaign to secure his freedom, President Obama eventually commuted his sentence and Angelos was released from prison in 2016 after serving 13 years. In December of 2020, he was fully pardoned by President Trump. Since then, Angelos has become an influential criminal justice reform advocate and was a key factor in the passage of the First Step Act. He also played a key role in President Trump’s final clemency grants of nearly a dozen individuals who were serving life sentence for marijuana.
By reducing the financial and administrative burden of expungement efforts, the HOPE Act aims to remedy the War on Drugs where it has been most pervasive – at the state and local level. Specifically, the HOPE Act would create a new grant program under the U.S. Department of Justice, the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program, and authorize it to be funded up to $20 million over the span of Fiscal Years 2023-2032. Through this program, the Attorney General would be authorized to provide grants to states and local governments to reduce the often costly burden of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses that are available to individuals who have been convicted of such offenses under the laws of the State.
Conservative in approach but progressive in scope, the HOPE Act is endorsed by the Last Prisoner Project, Americans for Prosperity, R Street Institute, Drug Policy Alliance, U.S. Cannabis Council, Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation, NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, National Cannabis Industry Association, National Medicinal Cannabis Coalition, Metrc, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, and more.