By Jacob Sullum for reason.com On Friday the three remaining defendants in the Kettle Falls Five marijuana case, which involves Washington residents who grew their own medicine in a state that allowed them to do so, were sentenced to federal prison. Rolland Gregg got 33 months—more than two and a half years—while his mother, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and his wife, Michelle Gregg, each received a one-year sentence. Those terms are much shorter than the potential sentences they faced when their trial started in March, which included a 10-year mandatory minimum. But any prison time at all for growing 70 or so marijuana plants would be anomalous in a state where hundreds of state-licensed businesses, serving recreational consumers as well as patients, openly grow and sell much larger amounts.
Federal prosecutors contended that the Greggs and Firestack-Harvey—together with her husband, Larry Harvey, who died of pancreatic cancer last August, and a family friend, Jason Zucker, who pleaded guilty just before the trial in exchange for a 16-month sentence—were growing marijuana for distribution. But there was little evidence of that. The five of them openly grew their plants outside the home that Rhonda and Larry shared in northeastern Washington, on a plot marked by a sign bearing a large green cross that was visible from the air. They all had doctor’s letters recommending marijuana for the treatment of various conditions, including gout, anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and chronic pain from a broken back. Their plant total was below Washington’s presumptive limit of 15 per patient, and prosecutors could not cite a single sale by what they described as a criminal enterprise or any evidence of large illicit profits.