Jake Ellison, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Americans for Safe Access, a national pro-medical marijuana group, is targeting Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA) in ads it says will run on MSNBC, CNN, and HLN in eastern Washington every day this week.
The group wants to draw attention to the Kettle Falls 5, a family (mostly) charged with growing marijuana plants in rural eastern Washington and having guns around. Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Larry Harvey and two others are facing trial before a jury starting on July 28.
As a thorough story in the Spokesman Review points out, the case could hold implications for Washington growers licensed by I-502 as well as growers participating in collectives. The paper writes:
The five defendants won’t be allowed to argue they were obeying state laws on medical marijuana, or even mention it to the jury, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle ruled (in May), citing several precedents. That raises the prospect that if federal drug officials decide to arrest recreational marijuana growers, they also won’t be able to claim they were following state laws as a defense. …
Top Justice Department officials have said the federal government will refrain from prosecutions in states that have legalized some form of marijuana, providing those operations are not involved in any of eight key activities such as selling to minors, using a state-sanctioned marijuana operation as a cover for other illegal activity, funneling money to organized crime or moving drugs across state lines. They also want to keep violence and guns out of marijuana operations and keep them off federal lands.
The medical marijuana access advocates explained who it was targeting and why in a news release this afternoon:
One of the ads focuses on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who grew up in Kettle Falls and now represents the same district where defendant Larry Harvey lives. On May 30th, Rep. McMorris Rodgers voted against a bipartisan measure that would protect her constituents by restricting Department of Justice (DOJ) spending on enforcement in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Despite Washington’s 16-year-old medical marijuana law and the questionable enforcement practices occurring in her own district, McMorris Rodgers has consistently opposed medical marijuana reform in Congress.
The other ad praises Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), one of 49 House Republicans who voted in favor of restricting DOJ enforcement in medical marijuana states. Hastings reversed his stance on medical marijuana from previous years, but he will be retiring his seat in eastern Washington at the end of his term. The ad publicly recognizes the Congressman’s position, but also encourages voters to find out where the numerous candidates running for Hastings’ open seat stand on medical marijuana.
“In addition to this week’s ads in Washington State,” the groups said in the news release, “ASA recently ran ads spotlighting Members of Congress in Florida and Maryland. The organization is offering to produce similar ads in the other Congressional districts where elected officials voted against restricting DOJ enforcement in medical marijuana states.”