On July 26th, 2012, five carloads of federal agents rolled up a dusty driveway onto the rural Washington state property of Larry Harvey. They emerged from their cars with assault rifles drawn.
“Hell, I thought they were going to shoot me,” Larry said in an interview late last year.
Thus began one of the highest profile marijuana cases in recent U.S. history. So high profile, in fact, that the case merited its own nickname based upon the tiny town where Larry lived, and the number of defendants involved.
The defendants in the “Kettle Falls Five” case included Larry, his wife Rhonda, his daughter and son-in-law, and a family friend, all accused of growing marijuana. But the Kettle Falls Five never denied growing weed—in fact, they claimed they were growing it legally under Washington’s medical marijuana laws, for which they had all the proper permits.
Just over three years later, the case is finally drawing to a close. In the end, much to the chagrin of defense attorneys and marijuana activists, tragedy was not wholly averted. Larry Harvey, a mild-mannered, gout-stricken 71-year old medical marijuana patient and advocate, died on August 20th from pancreatic cancer. The family friend, Jason Zucker, pleaded guilty before the trial and was given a 16-month sentence, a $5,000 fine, and four years of supervised release.
“There is no such thing as medical marijuana,” said U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice at Zucker’s sentencing. “There is no such thing in federal law.”
Harvey’s widow, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and her daughter and son-in-law, Rolland and Michelle Gregg, were acquitted on four of the five charges, which means they will avoid the draconian ten-year mandatory minimum sentences they were facing. But they’re not out of the woods just yet—their sentencing on that final charge is scheduled for October of 2015.
Meanwhile, experts claim the Kettle Falls Five case is a dying breed. Cases like this, where state-compliant marijuana businesses become defendants against federal charges, were not uncommon just five years ago. Due in part to Harvey’s two trips to speak with congressmen on Capitol Hill, a federal spending freeze was enacted in December 2014, which is meant to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with medical marijuana businesses in states where it’s otherwise legal.
The Cannabusiness Report airs Mondays at 10 P.M. EST on Fusion.