'If We Had X Back Then': Former Inmate, Cannabis Advocate Discusses Social Media's Role In Weed Reform

Zinger Key Points
  • Luke Scarmazzo discusses how X (Twitter) could have changed his legal ordeal and the cannabis industry at the Benzinga Conference.
  • X's Alexa Alianello highlighted the social media platform's growing influence and technological advancements.

Luke Scarmazzo shared with the audience Wednesday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference his personal experience with law enforcement and cannabis — and how social media could have made a difference.

“If we had the power of X back in 2006 when I was raided and arrested for operating a state-legal dispensary, it could have changed the trajectory of our case and the entire industry,” Scarmazzo said at the event in Hollywood, Florida.

His powerful opening marked a compelling discussion during the panel titled “A Candid Conversation With X: Cannabis And Social Media.” Scarmazzo’s journey from incarceration to advocacy underscores the transformative role of X (formerly known as Twitter) in amplifying voices in the cannabis sector once stifled by legal and societal boundaries.

Alongside Scarmazzo was Alexa Alianello of X’s Sales and Partnerships, touting her role as the unofficial “chief weed officer,” highlighting X’s significant strides over the past year.

“X is home to over half a billion of the world's most influential and interesting people. Our users spend over 6 billion active minutes on the platform every day, marking an 11% increase since its acquisition,” she detailed, referring to Elon Musk’s purchase of the social media platform for $44 billion in 2022.

“Our users tend to have more purchasing power, be more affluent, and they tend to be more engaged with brands than users who are on other platforms,” Alianello stated. “So X has truly become an indispensable platform to our users, to our advertisers, and to different communities of people.”

The discussion also delved into specific advancements and strategic pivots X has made over the past year. “2023 was foundational, but 2024 is set to be even more transformational,” Alianello projected.

With initiatives like integrating artificial intelligence to enhance user experience and advertising capabilities, X is positioning itself at the forefront of technological and social innovation.

Luke Scarmazzo’s Journey: From Federal Prison To Cannabis Advocacy

Scarmazzo’s narrative added a deeply personal touch to the panel. He recounted his tumultuous journey, which began when federal agents raided his state-compliant dispensary in 2006.

“We took our case to trial, but as many of you know, state law doesn't mean much in a federal courtroom. We weren't able to present our defense,” he explained.


His subsequent conviction led to a 20-year sentence, a harsh reality that unfolded as the cannabis industry began to flourish.

“I watched governments and corporations bank millions, while I sat in a cell for doing the exact same thing,” Scarmazzo lamented.

After a long struggle, Scarmazzo was released and reunited with his daughter, who was only five years old at his sentencing. “That little girl, who was just five when I went away, is now a beautiful, intelligent 21-year-old woman,” he said, pointing her out in the audience.

The panel was not merely reflective but forward-looking, emphasizing the potential of X to foster significant cultural and political discourse.

Alianello's closing remarks reinforced this: “X continues to be a destination for free expression and for storytelling. We continue to support the ways in which people bring forward information and authentic experiences.”

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The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is coming to Florida

The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is returning to Florida, in a new venue in Hollywood, on April 16 and 17, 2024. The two-day event at The Diplomat Beach Resort will be a chance for entrepreneurs, both large and small, to network, learn and grow. Renowned for its trendsetting abilities and influence on the future of cannabis, mark your calendars – this conference is the go-to event of the year for the cannabis world.

Get your tickets now on bzcannabis.com – Prices will increase very soon!