A motion to dismiss will be heard in federal court Thursday in a widely watched medical marijuana case involving a family from rural northeastern Washington State. Larry Harvey, 71, and other family members of the so-called “Kettle Falls Five” have moved for dismissal of their case, arguing that a recently enacted Congressional measure forbids the Department of Justice (DOJ) from prosecuting them.
What: Hearing on a motion to dismiss in the widely watched federal medical marijuana case of the Kettle Falls Five
When: Thursday, February 12th at 10am
Where: Courtroom 902 of the Spokane Federal Courthouse, 920 West Riverside Ave, Spokane, WA 99201
“Prosecuting persons who may be operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws prevents states from implementing their own laws,” reads one of the motions to dismiss written by Harvey’s attorney Robert Fischer. Harvey’s motion argues that state law is undermined by discouraging lawful patients from accessing medical marijuana because of the threat of federal prosecution. Harvey also argues that “federal prosecutions take away Washington’s authority to determine for itself whether someone is in compliance with its laws or not.”
Harvey’s motion to dismiss comes just two months after President Obama signed the so-called “Cromnibus” spending bill, which included Section 538, an historic rider that prohibits DOJ funds from being spent to block implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Advocates argue that federal prosecutions like that of the Kettle Falls Five run contrary to the spirit and letter of the law now in effect.
The Kettle Falls Five is made up of mostly family members, including Harvey, his wife Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 56, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg, 36, and friend of the family Jason Zucker, 39. Larry and Rhonda are retired and have a home in rural Washington State near the town of Kettle Falls. All five are legal patients with serious medical conditions, including Larry who was recently diagnosed with State IV pancreatic cancer, which has metastasized to his liver.
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. Federal agents also confiscated the family’s 2007 Saturn, $700 in cash, their legally owned firearms, and other personal property. Each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Larry Harvey has been working with medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which hosted his travel to Washington, DC on two occasions last year to lobby for passage of the Congressional measure restricting federal enforcement. ASA also held a DC lobby day in April focused on the measure’s passage. “The law that was recently signed by President Obama was designed precisely for patients like Larry Harvey,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer.
Pending the outcome of the motions hearing, the Kettle Falls Five trial is set for February 23rd in U.S. District Court in Spokane, Washington, before Judge Thomas O. Rice.