Jump to content

Medical Marijuana Patients: “Our Suffering Is Newsworthy”

Recommended Posts



State-legal marijuana patients and caregivers locked in federal prisons; We are the standard-bearers of the new revolution




Federal convict Jerry Duval and wife being interviewed by MLive after the Detroit press conference for Michigan ASA

This story is very personal to me. My writings on The Compassion Chronicles are journalistic in style and intent so this variance from my own rule is a selfish and indulgent personal exorcism. Apologies.- Rick Thompson




They took my friend away. Somebody said, “Go get those guys,” and they were gotten.


The Lansing 7 are businessmen who have been federally convicted for their arrangement of growing marijuana in state-legal gardens under a plan approved by lawyers. When the state law enforcement agencies wanted to interfere, they could not- each garden was at a separate address and contained a legal number of plants. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and they found it- the DEA.



Thomas Lavigne and Jerry Duval address the media at Michigan ASA’s press conference

The DEA doesn’t care about all the work you put into making each garden legally compliant. They don’t care that the caregivers are also patients. Normally the only thing the DEA cares about is if the garden contains more than 99 plants, the supposed threshold for federal involvement.


These gardens didn’t contain more than 99 plants at a single address. That Somebody said, “Get ‘em anyway,” and they found a way- add up all the gardens together, call it a conspiracy and viola! Federal charges for everyone involved. Yes, everyone, including the elderly man that did janitorial work at the gardens. He was convicted of a crime, too.



Annette Carter, Greg Pawlowski and Kenneth Gibson at the Michigan ASA press conference in Detroit

The federal court system has a 98% conviction rate, I’m told, so it should be no surprise that all seven that were charged eventually plead guilty. The longest sentence of the group- 4 years. That would be my friend, Ryan Basore, co-founder of The Compassion Chronicles, who will have to read this article on a prison computer.


Basore graduated from Northwoods University while his federal case was being argued. He got engaged to a wonderful woman just days before surrendering himself for incarceration. He is now a resident of a corrections facility in West Virginia. He is not only my friend he is a son, a brother, a fiancé and a darn good man.


Ryan’s story isn’t the only one that will break your heart. The Duvals and the Forsbergs are pairs of father-son convicts within the federal penal system. The Forsbergs are part of the Lansing 7 and the Duvals, from Monroe County, were also convicted of federal crimes for growing marijuana under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). Jerry Duval was sentenced to ten years in federal prison and his sentence begins in early June. His son is already incarcerated.



Michigan ASA first meeting

We held a press conference in Detroit to call attention to the plight of these Michigan citizens caught up in the madness of the drug war. When I say ‘we’ it’s referring to the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). ASA, on a national level, has been fighting for the cause of safe access to cannabis for those whose laws allow it- and for everyone, eventually. Our Michigan chapter members include some powerhouse names in the state cannapolitical theater.


Although Michigan ASA organized the event we were not alone in supporting these patients and their families. The Human Solution, Michigan NORML, Michigan Moms United, and even members of the Ann Arbor Medical Cannabis Guild attended and supported the event. Out-of-state support came in the form of the Cannabus, from Arizona, and Washington’s Kari Bolter, who spoke to the press during the conference about the 200 federal prisoners suffering for medical cannabis crimes.


Jerry Duval, the father in one of those father-son prison combinations, was the featured speaker during the press conference. His wife spoke too, filling in some details of the emotions they experienced when returning to their house after the DEA raid, the emotions she feels at having a son locked up, at having her husband taken from her for a decade. The media listened- and they responded.


Fox news was there and featured a video on the evening news. That story has spread to other Fox stations- and beyond. WWJ, 950 AM, a powerhouse radio station with a huge signal, reported about the press conference and the Duval story and that was picked up by CBS affiliates. The Detroit Free Press article was very flattering; it hit the Associated Press newswire and was reprinted in newspapers across the nation. MLive, the largest online news outlet in Michigan, did a story that has gone viral.



Kari Bolter and Chuck Ream at the Michigan ASA press conference in Detroit

The thing that makes this a bad story to us is what makes it a good story to them. Our suffering is newsworthy, and the more those in power harass and attack medical marijuana patients the more interest is generated in the media- and more cannabis supporters are created. Our newspapers are flooded with prohibitionist misinformation about marijuana but cannabis law reformers have no need to exaggerate or lie- the facts are gruesome enough without embellishment to create media interest and change minds.


This doesn’t mean squat to the Duval family, or the Forsbergs- they will know grief beyond expression for years to come. It does create an obligation for the medical and recreational marijuana communities to elevate these newsworthy examples, to insist upon media time, to share resources and to conduct press conferences. We are the standard-bearers of the new revolution and if we don’t hold our flag high, how can our supporters know in which direction to march?


Those are all the plans of an orderly mind, of a community in alignment, and right now I am not thinking in those terms. Right now I have only one thing on my mind:


They took my friend away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...