Trial Begins in Federal Court for Marijuana Grow Operation in Eastern Washington

Steve Jackson, Northwest Public Radio

The trial began Wednesday in federal court in Spokane for a group of people accused of growing marijuana near Kettle Falls in northeast Washington. The case is seen as a test of federal drug laws, in a state that has legalized recreational and medical marijuana.

In the case known as the Kettle Falls Five, there are now only three defendants. Charges were dropped earlier this month against 71-year-old Larry Harvey, who has been diagnosed with stage five pancreatic cancer. Miller's family members are accused of growing marijuana, which they say was for medicinal purposes.

Charges have also been dropped against family friend Jason Zucker, who has agreed to a plea bargain.

Marijuana advocate Kris Hermes of the group Americans for Safe Access says in court Wednesday, testimony centered on the fact that law enforcement only confiscated a portion of the plants found on the family’s property.

"The defendants argued that their 68 plants were in compliance with state law, but law enforcement made them, or cut down some plants themselves. They left 44 plants standing at the time of the first search, indicating that it was ok or acceptable to local law enforcement,” Hermes said.

Several days later the DEA came and cut down the remaining plants, and then charged the defendants with manufacturing a controlled substance. They have been charged with cultivating more than 100 plants, even though fewer were found. The feds says they had evidence that more plants had been grown over time at the residence.

The three remaining Kettle Falls defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison if convicted.