The Feds came out with a rather surprising statement stating that they wrongfully prosecuted a family growing medicinal marijuana in 2012. This decision was agreed to by the U.S. Department of Justice and the defense lawyers that were involved in this case.
So How Did This Start?
The incident occurred back in 2012, when the family of five—dubbed “The Kettle Falls Five” after the occurrence—was suddenly arrested by the federal government. The feds unfairly raided their Kettle Falls property and charged all 5 family members for growing and possessing 70 marijuana plants.
The courts sentenced Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and her son’s now ex-wife to a year and a day in prison in 2015. Rhonda’s son, Rolland Gregg, was sentenced to 33 months. All of them were sentenced to probation for 3 years as well.
Unfortunately, the father and head of the family, Larry Harvey, passed away due to cancer in 2015 and the fifth member of the family (a former family friend by the name of Jason Zucker), took a plea deal and had to testify against the remaining 3 defendants.
So what was wrong with all of this?
Everything the Kettle Falls Five did was legal under Washington state’s rules and regulations. The marijuana was to be used strictly for medical purposes.
DOJ Decision and Unlawful Prosecution
After two years of trying, early this week, the DOJ found the prosecution of the Kettle Falls Five to be unlawful. They went on to admit that what the family had done was complying with all laws.
The brief stated that the federal government “was not authorized to spend money on the prosecution of the defendants after December 2014 because the defendants strictly complied with the Washington State Medical Marijuana Laws.”
A great amount of national backlash was received as word of the case decision came out; strong critics of the Federal ban on marijuana berated the DOJ for allowing this to happen to a party that was only doing things the right way and abiding by all laws.
Washington state has always been a proponent of national legislation of cannabis, so seeing this event occur at the light of such a progressive drug-reform movement is seen as taking steps backward. “This case has turned the justice system completely on its head,” said a spokeswoman for the Kettle Falls Five, “Here, we have prosecutors admitting that it is the DOJ who is breaking Federal law, not the other way around.”
This shows that the government still has flaws regarding drug policy, and there is still a lot to do to avoid making incorrect judgments that could impact lives in negative ways.
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment passed the House in 2014 after six previous attempts, and with was first introduced by US Representative Maurice Hinchey, and titular representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr in 2013. It is a federal marijuana provision that prohibits the DOJ from being able to prosecute medicinal marijuana operations that are legal under state laws by spending funds to interfere with them.
The Department of Justice lawyers cited the amendment in the ruling on Monday, stating, “This court determined that Rohrabacher-Farr prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the state medical marijuana laws and fully complied with the laws.”
Having the feds admit they were wrong in this case is a huge step forward for drug policy and reform in our country as it sets a precedent for justice not only Washington, but for the United States as a whole. Activists are happy to see judicial progress because they know that this occurrence will make future medical marijuana legality cases more supported by increasing amendments and laws defending those in need.