Federal prison sentences were handed down Oct. 2 for the three remaining defendants in the Kettle Falls Five case in Washington State. The case has received national attention as an example of federal interference with state-qualified medical cannabis patients, and lobbying by Larry Harvey, a defendant in the case who died last month from cancer, was instrumental in getting Congress to restrict Department of Justice enforcement in states with medical cannabis laws.
Larry Harvey’s widow, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and her daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg were each sentenced to one year and a day. Rhonda’s son, Rolland Gregg, received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal.
They were each charged with multiple federal felonies that carried stiff mandatory minimum sentences after a 2012 raid on the family’s personal cannabis garden in rural Washington State, even though there was no evidence of distribution and the garden was clearly marked as medical. The defendants were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite being qualified patients in Washington State. The jury acquitted them of all the government’s primary charges but found them guilty of “manufacturing” fewer than 100 plants.
“Federal prison time for patients who were participating in an established state medical cannabis program is an embarrassment to our judicial system and a violation of the restrictions Congress placed on the DOJ,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”
Prosecutors dropped charges against the terminally ill Larry Harvey just days before the case went to trial. The fifth defendant, family friend Jason Zucker, pleaded guilty and received a 16-month sentence after cooperating with the prosecution. He is free pending an appeal of his sentence.
Thanks in part to lobbying by Larry Harvey, Congress has now twice enacted the Rohrabacher-Farr amendments to the DOJ budget that ban it from interfering with state medical cannabis programs. The landmark amendment was signed into law by President Obama late last year.
In an April 8, 2015 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, amendment co-authors Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) cited “criminal prosecutions, like the recent Kettle Falls case in Washington” as examples of what the amendment was intended to stop. Rohrbacher and Farr have called on the Inspector General's Office to launch an investigation into federal raids and prosecutions of state-legal medical cannabis activities protected under the amendment.
Earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr medical cannabis amendment by an even wider margin, voting in favor 242 to 186. The amendment passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 22-8.
Petition to Pardon the 3 defendants
Rohrabacher-Farr Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder
Rohrabacher-Farr Letter Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz
Medical Marijuana Patients Applaud House Reauthorization of Rohrabacher-Farr CJS Amendment
Senate Vote Reaffirms Congressional Support to End of Federal Interference In State-Level Medical Marijuana Programs
Despite Congress telling federal prosecutors to stop interfering in state medical cannabis programs, three of the patients charged in the Kettle Falls Five case have been sentenced to federal prison terms and fines. Even though they were acquitted of 4 of 5 charges and only convicted of a single lesser charge related to cultivating for themselves under Washington State's medical cannabis program, they will each go to prison for more than a year at an enormous cost to taxpayers.
We urge you to take action to ask President Obama to issue immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg (sentenced to 2 years, 9 months; 3 years supervised release; $7,500 fine), his wife Michelle Gregg (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release), and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release). Additionally, we are asking for complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons.
Rhonda, Rolland, and Michelle deserve to get on with their lives and return to being the productive members of society that they were before this ordeal began.
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