Michigan Medical Marijuana Patients Argue Their Federal Appeal Thursday Before Sixth Circuit Severely ill Jerry Duval lacks medical care while serving 10-year prison sentence, also pursues compassionate release

January 22, 2014 | Kris Hermes

Cincinnati, OH -- Michigan medical marijuana patient Jerry Duval and his son Jeremy, who are serving 10 and 5 years in prison, respectively, after being convicted in April 2012 without a defense in federal court, will argue their appeal Thursday before the Sixth Circuit. Jerry Duval, 54, a kidney-pancreas transplant patient with coronary artery disease and diabetic retinopathy, began serving his sentence in June at FMC Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, but has complained about not receiving adequate medical treatment. The Obama Administration has so far refused Duval's Compassionate Release Request despite a price tag of over $1 million to care for him in prison.

What: Oral arguments appealing Jerry and Jeremy Duval's federal convictions before Sixth Circuit
When: Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9am
Where: Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, 100 East 5th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio

Oral arguments in the Duvals' appeal comes just months after Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a now-famous memorandum in August 2013, stating that it was "not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals." The appeal is also being argued only days after President Obama told The New Yorker magazine that Americans should implement marijuana reform so that we can avoid "a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished."

Despite their strict adherence with Michigan's medical marijuana law and multiple inspections by local law enforcement, the Duvals were arrested in 2011 by federal agents for manufacturing with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, and maintaining a drug premises. Unsatisfied with the criminal convictions against the Duvals, the Obama Justice Department is also trying to seize the family's home and farmland worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Imprisoning someone with life-threatening illnesses who was fully compliant with state law makes no sense at all," said medical marijuana advocate Kari Boiter, who is helping to organize pressure on the Obama Administration to release Duval. "Why should Jerry Duval be needlessly and harmfully punished at a tremendous cost to taxpayers, while the federal government stands aside as marijuana legalization laws are implemented in the U.S."

While in prison, Jerry Duval has been refused essential medication and has received inadequate treatment for his variety of serious health conditions. Only after appealing to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who represents the state in which Duval is being imprisoned, was he able to obtain medicine that helps him avoid rejection of his kidney and pancreas transplants. However, Duval is still being refused proper treatment for other conditions, like the hemorrhaging in both of his eyes which has persisted for months.

Since the time he began his incarceration, Jerry Duval has been pursuing his release on compassionate grounds in addition to appealing his conviction in federal court. The Compassionate Release program, implemented as part of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, has been underutilized over the years and by the Obama Administration in particular, according to a report issued last year by the Inspector General. The program appears designed for seriously ill prisoners like Duval, with "extraordinary and compelling" circumstances, but the DOJ officially denied his request late last year, an action that Duval is appealing.

Further information:
Appeal brief for the Duvals: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/duvalappeal
Compassionate Release Request for Jerry Duval: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/Duval_Compassionate_Release_Request2.pdf

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