WASHINGTON - Have you seen the CNN segment on the Kettle Falls Five, a family of medical marijuana patients being prosecuted by the federal government? If not, you should. They’re scheduled to go to trial in less than three weeks, on December 1st.
The Kettle Falls Five represents everything that’s wrong with the federal government’s policy on medical marijuana. Despite repeated public declarations by the Obama Administration that it isn’t targeting patients growing for their own personal use, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to aggressively go after people who are in full compliance with their state’s medical marijuana law.
Seventy-year-old Larry Harvey and his family were cultivating a modest number of plants at their rural home in eastern Washington when they were raided in 2012 and charged with trafficking, even though no such evidence was found.
But, it doesn’t stop there.
The federal government has charged them with six felonies each and is seeking 10-year mandatory minimum sentences. Needless to say, Larry would likely not survive his prison sentence.
It’s bad enough that the federal government is going after patients cultivating medical marijuana for themselves, but it was found that Obama Administration spent more than $3 million so far to do so according to Americans for Safe Access report “What’s the Cost”. If convicted, the DOJ could spend as much as $13 million to send the Kettle Falls Five to prison.
Unfortunately, the Kettle Falls Five is not the only case being prosecuted by the Obama Administration. There is a long list of medical marijuana patients currently serving time in prison, and the federal government is expecting you to foot the bill.
We must continue to put the spotlight on cases like the Kettle Falls Five, and the good news is we now have Congress on our side. As I mention in this accompanying CNN op-ed, we scored an important and unprecedented victory earlier this year in the House of Representatives. In May, a sea change occurred when the House voted 219-189 to restrict DOJ funds for the type of enforcement that has resulted in the prosecution of the Kettle Falls Five.
As a result of this historic vote, we have a rare opportunity to put a measure on the president’s desk that would stop cases like the Kettle Falls Five in their tracks. That still depends on the U.S. Senate passing their version of the amendment during the lame duck session,, but popular will is on our side.
And we’re not stopping there.
Preventing the DOJ from aggressively enforcing federal marijuana laws against patients is only a partial fix. We must start addressing this as a public health issue, and support measures like HR689, a Congressional bill that would reclassify marijuana for medical use and establish a more comprehensive policy solution.
We have a rare opportunity today to reach out to our Members of Congress, to make sure they know about HR689, and to urge them to vote for much-needed policy change on medical marijuana. Patients deserve to use their medicine without fear of reprisal by the federal government, and we must pass laws to protect, not prosecute, them.
Steph Sherer, the author of the above blog, is the Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group.
Steph Sherer - The Huffington Post Blog/ Nov. 11, 2014