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San Francisco, CA -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech today to the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in which he outlined a new sentencing and enforcement strategy as America enters the fifth decade of the so-called "War on Drugs." Medical marijuana advocates are cautiously optimistic that the announcement will bring about the compassionate release of federal medical marijuana prisoners.
In the speech, Holder said that the Department of Justice is "considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances." Holder also spoke out against the indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent offenders. There are currently more than two-dozen federal medical marijuana patients and providers who are serving sentences for violating federal marijuana laws, despite being in compliance with the laws of their respective states.
Among these prisoners is Jerry Duval, who was recently sentenced to a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison for cultivating medical marijuana in accordance with laws of Michigan where he resided. Mr. Duval, who is a kidney-pancreas transplant patient with additional health issues, is expected to cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.2 million to keep him incarcerated in a federal medical prison.
"The human and financial cost of imprisoning a nonviolent medical marijuana patients such as Jerry Duval is one of the greatest travesties of the Justice Department's current enforcement and sentencing strategy," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "We look forward to Attorney General Holder bringing about the compassionate release of Mr. Duval and reconsideration of all the other nonviolent federal medical marijuana prisoners."
ASA recently released a report detailing the financial and human costs associated with the federal government's enforcement against state-approved medical marijuana programs since 1996. The organization has long been working for the release of federal medical marijuana prisoners and relaunched these efforts earlier this summer with its Peace for Patients campaign. The campaign seeks to bring an end to the federal government's aggressive attacks on medical marijuana patients.
Text of today's speech by Attorney General Holder: http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2013/ag-speech-130812.html
Peace for Patients campaign: http://PeaceForPatients.org
ASA's "What’s the Cost?" report: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/WhatsTheCost.pdf