Medical marijuana rally protests 10-year prison sentence for Monroe-area farmer

May 27, 2013

Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press

Medical marijuana users have long decried Michigan’s state and local police and prosecutors as unfair but Tuesday’s target was the federal government.

Two dozen marijuana advocates — including lawyers and advocates from as far as Seattle and Phoenix — gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit to protest the case of Gerald Duval Jr., 53, a Monroe-area farmer who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted last year of conspiring to manufacture marijuana .

The federal charges stemmed from a raid of Duval’s pot-filled greenhouses by federal officers.

“Jerry Duval and his 10-year sentence is emblematic of how the Obama administration has been undermining state medical marijuana laws,” said Brandy Zink, chair of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

At the moment that federal agents raided his farm, “I was 100% legal” under Michigan’s medical marijuana act, Duval told the crowd. Standing beside him was Duval’s mother Sharon Duval, holding a sign that said: “No one should go to jail for medical marijuana.”

Duval was convicted in federal court in April 2012 of conspiring to manufacture more than 100 marijuana plants, manufacturing plants with an intent to distribute them and maintaining a place of distribution. Duval’s lawyers argued that he owned two large locked greenhouses in which his son Jeremy and daughter Ashley Duval — both state-registered medical marijuana caregivers — raised marijuana plants for their father’s use and others’ while abiding by Michigan’s law for medical marijuana. Jeremy Duval was sentenced to five years in prison while Ashley Duval was not charged, family members said.

Federal prosecutors persuaded a jury that the Duvals used medical marijuana as a front while tallying big profits by peddling marijuana to non-patients.

Federal officials in Michigan have said that U.S. prosecutors could ignore the Michigan act that allows use of medicinal marijuana because “state laws are not relevant to federal narcotics laws,” said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, after Tuesday’s rally.

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