RIP Larry Harvey of the Kettle Falls Five

By Jeremy Daw The Leaf Online

Medical marijuana advocate Larry Harvey, whose use of medical marijuana stood at the center of the controversy known as the Kettle Falls Five case, has died, Washington’s KDWN reports. He was 71.

Harvey, who received the Americans for Safe Access Patient Lobbyist of the Year Award in April, had become a national poster child for the federal government’s overzealous prosecution of medical marijuana patients in states which had legalized the plant’s use. After federal agents raided his personal cannabis farm near Kettle Falls, Washington, Harvey and four co-defendants, including his wife and son-in-law, were charged on multiple counts including the cultivation of over 100 marijuana plants. Yet the federal jury rejected all but one of the charges despite rulings forbidding the group’s defense attorneys from making any arguments based on the five defendants’ compliance with Washington state’s medical marijuana law; and federal prosecutors voluntarily dropped all charges against Harvey when it was revealed he was stricken with a terminal case of pancreatic cancer. The case attracted national attention and may have increased pressure on the US Congress to pass restrictions on DOJ funding for preventing states from implementing medical marijuana laws through a provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment.

Unfortunately, not all of the Kettle Falls defendants received such compassionate treatment. Jason Zucker, the first of the defendants to be sentenced, was condemned to 16 months in federal prison by Judge Thomas O. Rice, who rejected his argument that he had complied with the state’s medical marijuana law. Zucker remains out of prison pending an appeal.

Some have claimed that the continued prosecutions against the remaining Kettle Falls defendants is illegal, based on a dubious interpretation of Rohrabacher-Farr; yet to date, no federal judge has agreed with this interpretation. Thus the best way to honor Harvey’s legacy of activism is to support federal legislation, like the CARERS bill, which would actually have the effect of ending federal prosecutions in medical marijuana states, instead of pretending that equivalent reforms have already occurred.

Larry Harvey is survived by his wife Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, his mother Doreen Harvey, and three children.