Barry and the Wacky Weedus

June 11, 2013

Larry Gabriel, Detroit Metro Times

When Barak Obama became president in 2008, there was hope among marijuana activists that federal authorities would not concern themselves with medical marijuana facilities and individuals in states that legalized the plant for medical use.

After all, this was a president who had admitted to smoking pot and inhaling (the last three presidents have smoked marijuana, although Bill Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale). Then there was the so-called Ogden memo that declared medical marijuana a “low priority” in states that had legalized it. Activists thought they felt a breath of fresh air out of Washington regarding the War On Drugs.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Actually, the feds later overruled the Ogden memo, so it should be no surprise that the feds have been hitting large dispensaries and facilities. In fact, most marijuana activist organizations report that Obama’s administration has been more aggressive than George W. Bush’s against facilities that, by all accounts, are in compliance with state law.

That kind of stuff has been happening in California and Montana, but it came home to Michigan recently when several individuals were sentenced in federal court for their involvement in marijuana growing operations.

The members of a group known as the Lansing 7 all pleaded guilty to federal charges for their involvement in a medical marijuana growing operation and recently were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one day to four years. The Lansing 7 had a plan they believed was compliant with state law involving growing some hundreds of plants at several different properties. They met with law enforcement and lawyers to make sure it was legal. Unfortunately marijuana of any kind is illegal under federal law.

Another case involves Monroe farmer Jerry Duval and his son. Duval, 53, is a medical marijuana patient whose juvenile diabetes led to kidney and pancreas transplants. He also suffers from glaucoma and neuropathy. He grew marijuana on his farm, partly to supply his own needs. But in his federal trial he was convicted of distributing marijuana after being barred from mentioning his medical use.

Duval was scheduled to report to a medical prison facility in Massachusetts on June 11, to begin serving a 10-year sentence that will ultimately cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million, due to his special needs. The Michigan Chapter of Americans for Safe Access held a press conference outside Detroit’s federal building to publicize his case.

“Jerry Duval and his 10-year sentence are 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, a national medical marijuana advocacy group.

Duval’s son and daughter are both registered medical marijuana caregivers. His son received a five-year sentence and his daughter was not charged in the case.

As I have previously observed, it seems like the feds will tolerate individual use but once someone gets enterprising and there is significant money changing hands you had better watch out. It will be intriguing to see what happens in Washington State and Colorado as state-licensed businesses start to distribute recreational marijuana. The feds have been publicly mum on their reaction, although I’m sure things are humming behind the scenes. In the meantime, a word to the wise is to keep things on the down low. Even people who are certain that they are legal under state law can never be sure of how safe they are.

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