Precedent-Setting Federal Trial Begins over Growing Medical Pot in Washington State
A lot of eyes will be watching the Federal Courthouse in Spokane starting today, when the Kettle Falls Five go on trial on federal drug charges. It's expected to be a precedent-setting case over state's rights vs. the federal government, especially over legalized pot.
According to news reports and information from The Weed (a popular and respected marijuana news publication), the feds are prosecuting a family of three, a daughter-in-law and family friend for growing medical marijuana. The Weed says they are in full compliance with Washington state medical pot laws, which regulate the number of plants each person can grow as a card-carrying medical marijuana patient.
At the center of the case is 71-year-old Larry Harvey who lives outside of Kettle Falls, North of Spokane. Suffering from Stage IV pancreatic cancer, Harvey had his charges dropped last week. But the feds are still prosecuting his wife, son, daughter-in-law and a family friend.They make up the Kettle Falls Five.
According to The Weed:
"In August 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided the property and seized 44 premature marijuana plants, charging the five with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, manufacture and distribution of marijuana, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime."
Supporters, and the Kettle Falls Five attorneys say the federal government is ignoring a Congressional ban that prohibits federal interference with the implementation state pot laws in Washington and Colorado (or any other state where pot has been declared legal).
According to Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the pro-marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, because it's a federal trial, the prosecution is going to omit the Washington state laws and procedures that have allowed the Five to legally grow and use the marijuana.
Although pot is legal in our state and Colorado, it is still illegal at the federal level. Because the Five also have firearms at their rural home in the woods, the feds are considering that to be part of an illegal drug operation. They're treating this the same as the clearly illegal pot growing operations found in Oregon over the last few years, which included security systems and other evidence they were being run by people associated with drug cartels.
Harvey says the guns were for hunting and protection because they live well outside of town in the woods.
The case began when a Kettle Falls area sheriff came out to their property to cut down some of their pot plants, saying they had too many, and were violating state laws. Harvey and his family-relatives are card-carrying medical marijuana patients. Harvey told USA Today he thought each person was allowed 15 plants each, and they were growing them collectively, which is also allowed (with some stipulations) by Washington state law.
Harvey says he's also never sold any of the pot, it was only used by his family. Soon after the sheriff's visit, the DEA raid occurred on the property, then the federal charges.
Federal prosecutors have essentially spit in the face of Washington state medical marijuana laws, saying it doesn't matter why the pot was grown, the Kettle Falls Five did it, used it, and that's illegal by federal standards.
The big issue here is not the growth and use of marijuana. This is an OK Corral standoff between the federal government and state's rights and laws approved by voters. Whether you agree with medical or recreational marijuana, should the federal government tell you the rules and laws of your state are null and void?