10 Years in Prison for Legally Growing Medical Pot? The Feds' Insane Assault on Perfectly Legal Activity
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As President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign gears up for its final push, his Department of Justice (DOJ) is aggressively pursuing medical marijuana cases in direct contravention of earlier pronouncements on the issue. Federal prosecutors are taking advantage of election season politics by gambling that the White House will not stand in their way and appear to look soft on crime at this critical juncture. Their well-times aggression is just another example of gaming the system and ringing-up meaningless prosecutions which serve no purpose other than padding the resumes of federal prosecutors. It is far afield from their mission statement and self-professed duty to protect the public.
The latest victims of this nationwide attack were a father and son in Monroe County, Michigan, Gerald Duval, Jr. and his son, Jeremy. They were convicted at trial in a federal case that centered on their growing medical marijuana in greenhouses. Gerald’s sentencing hearing was held on October 1 in federal court in Detroit. USDJ David Lawson handed down a 10 year sentence of which 87.5% will have to be served before the senior Duval is eligible for release. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors claimed that the Duvals “shamelessly exploited” Michigan’s medical marijuana law to try and get around the federal prohibition on marijuana. The prosecutors’ memorandum recommended an even longer sentence of 16 years for the Duvals’ decision to follow the state of Michigan’s medical marijuana law.
The federal prosecutors on the case chose interesting language in their pleas for a lengthy sentence. Equating adherence to a state law with which they disagree to shameless exploitation speaks volumes about the legal wrangling in which the prosecutors are engaging. The fact that the defendants were operating lawfully under the Michigan medical marijuana statute is completely removed from the equation. In almost all of these cases, jurors are prohibited from hearing any testimony regarding the laws of the state. The defense may not raise the issue because, in short, the state laws are not a valid defense upon which the accused can rebut the federal charges. That the accused believed they were in full compliance with state law and unaware of a conflict with federal drug statutes is of no moment. All the jurors are permitted to hear is the various ways the defendant violated federal law. The accused’s strict adherence to the state’s medical marijuana law is deceptively omitted from the proceedings.
“The Duvals’ case is another tragedy from President Obama’s war on medical marijuana,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “This type of enforcement is unnecessary and far from the public health approach that medical marijuana patients deserve.” A press release from ASA cites the fact that accused medical marijuana caregivers have “no chance of defending themselves against federal law.”
The ASA is particularly troubled by this latest round of prosecutions. Sherer further criticized the Obama administration’s handling of this issue by stating, “The federal raids and prosecutions in Michigan are unfortunately only an example of the broader aggressive campaign by the Obama administration to undermine state medical marijuana laws.” Sherer noted earlier claims by Obama that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” Despite this promise, the DOJ under Obama has conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids and indicted in excess of 70 medical marijuana providers. In these raids, DEA agents typically assault the targeted premises wearing full body armor and brandishing machine guns in an effort to intimidate their victims into submission. This is nothing less than state-sponsored violence against a targeted segment of the populace.
In order to understand this latest assault on the citizenry, one must closely examine the motives of the prosecutors pursuing these cases. These are relatively easy cases to bring. Federal prosecutors are being handed virtual “slam dunks” by states which enact medical marijuana laws because they all begin with the premise that regardless of what the state may permit, federal law is being violated. One might think that with the alleged abundance of criminal activity that exists within the US, there would be more urgent matters to pursue. Federal prosecutors are quick to offer the familiar refrain that prosecution is a limited resource and must be applied where it most needed. Yet there appears to be an abundance of prosecutorial resources available for these seemingly benign matters.