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

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

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

When it came time for Valero’s recent sentencing, Glass House Brands CEO Kyle Kazan would join Valero’s family in supporting their son, brother, father, and uncle. Kazan attempted to put in perspective for the judge how ludicrous it was that Valero would be forced to serve between 5 and 10 years under federal law for cannabis when companies like his would be moving 180,000 dry pounds of cannabis a year when their new 1.7 million square feet of cultivation space start harvesting soon. 

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Kazan with the Valero family outside court

Cop to Advocate to Cannabis CEO

Kazan was a police officer for 10 years. He got his start in 1991 in Torrance. He eventually became involved in gang enforcement 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 local and federal law enforcement members speaking out against the war on drugs and the impact it’s had on society that they watched first hand. The group rebranded to the Law Enforcement Action Partnership a few years ago but they still work very hard to end drug prohibition. Its membership has been a mainstay at cannabis and drug policy public hearings for two decades since it was founded 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 a lot of cannabis CEOs have a background in law enforcement. And one might also argue Kazan has spoken out more on the reform side than any of his peers from law enforcement that have made their way into cannabis. He’s certainly not alone. 



The Sentencing Hearing

“This is who I am, your Honor,” Kazan planned to tell the judge. “Compared to the amount of cannabis I’m moving, what you’re about to sentence this person for, it’s absolute insanity.”

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

“It didn’t matter,” Kazan said.

Kazan called the situation an overall embarrassment and called on president Joe Biden to take action. 

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