Ian Cull, KXLY News Spokane
The Kettle Falls 5 are a group of people the federal government is charging with growing and intending to distribute marijuana and they gave KXLY an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the former pot grow that could land them in prison.
This group of family and friends is confused as to why they were targeted by the federal government especially because they live in a rural setting, and the marijuana was intended for medical purposes. When the county prosecutor heard what they were doing he chose not to prosecute them, but federal prosecutors are moving forward with the trial saying it doesn't matter how much pot they were growing, it's all illegal.
Larry Harvey will be the first to admit he used to grow marijuana on his property.
"It's about a quarter mile up here," he said. "It's just the top of the hill, a little flat spot there that we cleared all the brush out of it."
The property is still littered with fertilizer and water bins and a sign to show it's a medical operation. The family said they grew 68 plants there and if you look closely you can see some holes in the ground where those plants used to be.
They claimed there were 68 plants; the federal government said it was 74 but, under federal law, one is too many, and that's why the property was raided in August 2012.
They're now charged with four federal marijuana counts and a gun charge.
Authorities spotted the grow during a flyover.
"Any planes flying over can see it," Harvey said. "It aint like we were trying to hide it."
Harvey and the other four claim the medical marijuana was only for themselves and it helped his gout and knee pain.
"Took the pain away. Five minutes the pain would be gone," Harvey said.
Washington law gives an affirmative defense to pot patients who collectively grow up to 45 plants together. While there were more plants here the Harveys said the plants were scattered, allowing them to have more.
"For 15 plants apiece and there were five of us that were in on this job and we thought we were legal for 75 plants," Harvey explained.
But for the federal government it's all illegal, with one prosecutor saying even one marijuana plant is too many.
Now the Kettle Falls 5 face up to 40 years in prison, and one of them faces life in prison if convicted.
The trial was supposed to start next Monday but it's been delayed until July 28.
One question is, now that Washington has licensed marijuana growers will that affect the outcome of the Kettle Falls 5 trial? Prosecutors wouldn't comment because of ongoing litigation but it's still very illegal under federal law.
However, one of their consultants brought up the question will the federal government really convict these people in July when there are recreational sales going on down the street?
It's a good question and one of the reasons this case is being watched by so many.