‘Kettle Falls Five’ Wins on Appeal in Medical Marijuana Case

May 8, 2018

Ms. Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, her son Rolland Gregg, and his wife Michelle Gregg for decades led normal lives.  Along with their friends Larry Harvey and Jason Zucker, they used medical marijuana for health issues.  They each had state medical health authorizations posted, and they carefully followed all of Washington state’s regulations for the legal use of medical marijuana.

Nonetheless, they were all raided on August 9, 2012 by state and federal agents who seized 68 marijuana plants and a family computer. The five were subsequently indicated on charges of marijuana possession and production.

The “Kettle Falls Five” as they were known were reduced in number when Harvey died of pancreatic cancer in August 2015.  Zucker, parting company with his friends, made a plea agreement the day before the federal trial and testified for the prosecution.

The trial jury delivered unanimous acquittals on all major ccounts, conferring conviction only on a lesser possession charge.  The judge, however, rejected the idea of a medical marijuana defense and was quoted by the Spokane Spokesman-Review as saying in Court, “There is no such thing as medical marijuana.  There is no such thing in federal law.”

Ms. Harvey and Ms. Gregg received 12-month sentences, and Mr. Gregg received a sentence of 33 months in prison.  They appealed this guilty verdict to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The DKT Liberty Project provided the only amicus “friend of the court” brief that was filed in their case. The brief argued that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a provision included in every federal budget since 2014, provides that, “None of the funds made available in [the federal budget] to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent…States from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The Ninth Circuit agreed and ruled that, “If, under Washington law, appellants’ conduct was authorized, their conduct may not be prosecuted by the Department Justice.”

Victory! This case overturns an injustice and also provides an important legal precedent.