A Department of Justice motion could clean away the convictions of the Kettle Falls Five, who were charged with cultivating marijuana for personal use.
Nearly five years ago, federal agents raided the home of Larry Harvey and Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, near Kettle Falls, WA. In the ensuing search, law enforcement officials say they found numerous marijuana plants as well as a firearm.
Authorities had spotted their grow site from overhead – the plants were arranged in the shape of a large, green cross. They were hardly hidden from sight, because the Kettle Falls Five didn’t think they had anything to hide.
Growing and consuming medical marijuana for personal use in Washington state is legal, and the Kettle Falls Five were all in compliance with local law.
Nevertheless, the defendants – including Firestack-Harvey’s son, Roland Gregg, and his wife, Michelle Gregg – weren’t given the chance to explain why they were cultivating dozens of cannabis plants.
Even though the Kettle Falls Five had medical marijuana cards and were growing marijuana in conjunction with Washington state law, the federal government still pursued a series of charges.
Many of the charges were later dropped – three were sentenced to prison for periods ranging between one and two years. Another defendant, Jason Zucker, was given 16 months, while a fifth man was later dismissed from the case.
Firestack-Harvey and the Greggs all appealed their convictions, arguing that the Department of Justice had no right to use federal funds to prevent the cultivation and usage of marijuana in states where it has since been legalized.
And they seem to be right – in 2014, Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment, which bars the DoJ from using federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws on medical marijuana.
Last week, the Department of Justice requested to stay the case – prosecutors acknowledged the incompatibility of the convictions with the congressional act.
The defense attorney for the remaining defendants said he thinks the case can now likely be dismissed.
However, the government has requested that the case return to District Court. Defense attorney Phil Telfeyan plans to ask the appellate court to dismiss the case – and his clients’ convictions – in their entirety.
“What the government has already said is we shouldn’t have prosecuted this family. We didn’t have legal authority to do so. That’s enough right there to have the case dismissed,” he said.
Firestack-Harvey said she’s pleased with the news, but laments that her husband won’t be able to share it – she believes the stress caused by the courts and subsequent conviction hastened the course of his cancer, claiming the man’s life.