Who Are Those Still Going to Jail on Marijuana Charges?

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    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
    Photo: thekettlefallsfive.com
    Newshawk Crew

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    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. Docta
    Yep the good old huffington post never one to let the truth get in the way od a good story. The defendants had exceeded the legislated total for the maximum allowable allotment of plants under cultivation. An allotment is a horticultural term that in this case has a defined set of parameters. You do the crime you do the time. Anybody wonting to get involved in cannabis cultivation should go up to a local former and ask them to explain there obligations.
  2. Docta
    Source of claim: drug-forum.com news page. Prisoners of War

  3. GeographyGeography
    I understand and (am trying to) appreciate your point of view here, especially when you consider that insofar as the public is unwilling to put pressure on the federal government and federal officials to stop wasting billions of dollars a year enforcing laws made as a result of, as well as imprisoning victims of, the War on Drugs, things like human decency and the horror of de facto institutionalized racism on an enormous scale will not play a role in policy change.(see Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow)

    I can guarantee you one thing though, no farmers ever went to federal prison for 10 years for planting a few too many crops outside their property line. There are several layers of irony in your comment though when you think about how the feds have used trillions of American taxpayer's dollars to subsidize farmers (and perhaps rightfully so). Sometimes I like to think about what some of the (literally endless) possible excuses are that we will hear from government officials about why it is a bad idea to end the war on drugs. Enforcing the WoD makes the government SO MUCH MONEY it is quite literally unbelievable, and possibly also incalculable.
  4. Phenoxide
    I'd be interested to see some more of the legal documents regarding this case. There's obviously more to it than Steph Sherer's portrayal, as the information Docta has dug out shows. 10 years for exceeding the cultivation quota does seem excessive, but I wonder whether the claim that there is no evidence for the trafficking charges is accurate?
  5. CaptainTripps
    They are not being prosecuted for "going over the quota", they are being prosecuted for growing marijuana, which is illegal under federal law. Period. The feds have established a policy where they will not prioritize cases for prosecution that are both following state law and are within some guidelines established by the department of justice. The feds prosecute a very small percentage of drug cases and have decided that these cases will not be the ones they use their limited recourses on.

    The issue with the "extra" plants come in has to do with state law. The state has chosen in most jurisdictions to only seize plants over the quota. Technically if you have over 45 plants the whole grow is illegal under state law. But this does not really matter as the state has no mandatory minimums based on plant amount.

    One reason that their is a 10 year mandatory minimum is that the feds have chosen to prosecute for "prior plants". They only have to prove you grew at least 100 plants, they do not have to all be alive at the time they find them. They claim to have video evidence to show these farmers had grown other plants ( some root balls or something), this brought the number of plants to over 100, bringing in the mandatory minimums. It is 10 years instead of 5 because the main defendant has prior felony drug convictions.

    Another reason is that they violated federal policy by having guns at the grow. This not only gives them incentive to prosecute, but can add much more time to sentences.

    It should also be noted that the feds always over charge in order to get plea bargains. You will notice that they never talk in these articles what plea offer was put forward by the feds. But the main defendant seemed more concerned that his felony conviction would take away his voting rights and his second amendment rights (gun ownership) than prison time, which would lead me to believe that the prison time was not going to be too long.

    If I had to guess, I would be willing to wager that the plea offer was 5 years or less. The extra plants ( the ones that are no longer growing) would go away. The gun would go away as they would say they were not possessed in furtherance of the crime. This would make the mandatory minimums go away. With that number of plants it would be a couple of years.

    The feds do not want to put this guy and his family away for a ton of time, what they want is a guilty plea and an acknowledgment that what they did was "wrong". This is about setting parameters and limits on these grows. The problem is that the growers are behaving irrationally by standing up for principle. They don't have a legal leg to stand on. But a jury might not convict on the extra plants and might not find the guns were possessed in furtherance of the crime. Still they will be looking at prison time.

    Don't get me wrong, I admire them for their courage. But it is not like they could not greatly reduce their possible penalties.
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