Jerry Duval is an ill man. For decades, he has suffered from juvenile diabetes. Its ravages have necessitated both kidney and pancreas transplants for the 53-year-old man.
Keeping his new organs alive requires scheduled diagnostic testing, which, according to Duval, costs upward of $25,000 a pop, in addition to $3,000 in monthly medications.
If his medication is halted for any length of time, Duval’s body will reject the organs, and he will die. Duval estimates the annual cost to preserve his kidneys and pancreas alone tops $100,000.
Duval also lives with glaucoma and neuropathy—conditions he says have necessitated nearly two-dozen surgeries to correct.
The Federal Government plans on picking up the tab for Duval’s treatment. But this is no Obamacare success story. Instead, Duval will receive his medical care from behind bars—at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, the same prison facility where alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held.
Is Duval a terrorist? Is he violent? Hardly.
Duval is currently staring at a 10-year sentence for growing more than 100 marijuana plants under the guidelines of Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law.
Federal prosecutors accused the partially disabled Duval of being a local kingpin. He was convicted and is set to begin his sentence on June 11.
He doesn’t expect to survive the length of his sentence.
‘The bigger national story was about the targeting of the Tea Party, but both are situations where IRS is using its discretion to lean on a particular cause the administration disagrees with politically. It doesn’t speak well to the integrity of this administration.’
Duval isn’t the only one being prosecuted by federal authorities in Michigan. In Lansing, a successful father and son real estate duo were just handed 3-year federal prison sentences for attempting to start a medical marijuana dispensary.
Despite President Obama’s recent rhetorical waffle on the issue of marijuana, in which he promised a more sensible federal drug policy based on treatment and not punishment, the federal government has continued to expend its resources in going after state-approved marijuana users and dispensaries.
The continued federal crackdown isn’t simply relying on putting people in jail. The Internal Revenue Service is being used as a tool to undermine the financial viability of the medical marijuana industry.
Pot businesses in [medical marijuana] states are vulnerable to the federal government's strategic application of IRS Code Section 280E, a law enacted in 1982 after a drug dealer claimed his yacht and weapons purchases as legitimate business expenses—and long before medical marijuana was first legalized in California in 1996.
Now the IRS is applying a rule originally aimed at illegal (and often violent) drug trafficking to businesses that are entirely legal under their states’ laws. Medical marijuana dispensaries are facing audits and heavy tax bills that could force them out of business.
Don Duncan, California Director of medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, tells TakePart that IRS actions against dispensaries have been going on for years in California. Nearly all the prominent dispensaries in the Bay Area, he says, are fighting to stay afloat because of looming IRS penalties.
“The bigger national story was about the targeting of the Tea Party,” points out Duncan, “but both are situations where IRS is using its discretion to lean on a particular cause the administration disagrees with politically. It doesn’t speak well to the integrity of this administration.”
Duncan says he expects the IRS to continue to target dispensaries across California and to extend its sweep across the country.
“The Department of the Treasury has the authority to do this. The only way to change it is to change the law. Telling the IRS not to audit you doesn’t do any good.”
“There’s an opportunity to change this at a federal level without legalizing marijuana. The senate can amend the appropriations bill to defund federal marijuana enforcement in any state where medical marijuana is legal.”
That, however, will do nothing to help Duval escape his 10-year sentence.
Duval's only hope may come from the Bureau of Prisons’ compassionate release program. He recently sent a letter petitioning the BOP for a reprieve from his sentence.
Duncan says he maintains hope that Duval will be successful, but the realist in him says it will be an uphill battle.
“My layman’s impression is that these motions have not been terribly successful,” he says. “This really is just a terrible case.”
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