Justice Department Uses Prosecutorial Discretion To Seek Decades In Prison For Legal Michigan Cultivators
Detroit, MI — Four medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in Michigan federal courts this week, highlighting the human cost of the federal government’s intolerance for state medical marijuana laws. The sentencing hearings come less than a week after another Montana medical marijuana provider, Chris Williams, was similarly denied a defense and found guilty at trial. In August, Montana medical marijuana provider Richard Flor, 68, died in custody after being sentenced to 5 years in prison despite a lack of evidence that he was in violation of any state laws.
Two medical marijuana caregivers from Monroe County, Michigan, who were convicted earlier this year will be sentenced today in federal court at 3pm before U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson (231 W. Lafayette Blvd, Detroit). Gerald Lee Duval Jr., 52, and his son, Jeremy Duval, 30, were raided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in 2011 and charged with felony cultivation, maintaining a place to cultivate marijuana, and conspiracy to distribute. In April, the Duvals were convicted at trial, the expected result of federal laws that prohibit any medical defense or reference to state law in front of juries.
“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), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “This type of enforcement is completely discretionary, unnecessary and far from the public health approach that medical marijuana patients deserve.” The Duvals face decades in prison despite no evidence of state law violations.
Days later, two more medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court in Michigan. Around the same time federal agents were raiding the Duvals, officers with the Central Michigan Enforcement Team (CMET) and the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department raided the Austin Township home and other property of John Marcinkewciz, 42, and Shelley Waldron, 42. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Jaycob Montague, 26, were originally charged under state law with cultivation and conspiracy to cultivate, but prosecutors soon turned their cases over to the federal Justice Department, where the three had no chance of defending themselves against federal law. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Montague all subsequently took plea bargains in May.
Waldron and Montague are scheduled to be sentenced at 8:45am on October 4th before Judge Robert Bell in U.S. District Court at 110 Michigan Street NW, Grand Rapids. Marcinkewciz is scheduled to be sentenced three weeks later on October 24th at 1:15pm before the same judge. In spite of the plea bargains, the three medical marijuana providers still face decades in prison.
“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,” continued Sherer. As with the Duval raid, DEA agents commonly burst onto the scene wearing full body armor and wielding machine guns in a clear attempt to intimidate. Despite claims by the president that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws,” Obama’s Justice Department has conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids and indicted well over 70 medical marijuana patients and providers since he took office.
A federal lawsuit to force the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use will be heard by the D.C. Circuit on October 16th. The case Americans for Safe Access v. DEA is bringing the science of medical marijuana into federal court for the first time in nearly 20 years. If marijuana were reclassified, the five people being sentenced in Michigan would be entitled to a medical defense, a right they are now denied.
With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.