Washington: Trial Postponed, New Judge Assigned In Kettle Falls 5 Federal Marijuana Case
U.S. Senate expected to take up measure restricting Justice Department funding for such prosecutions later this week
A new judge assigned to hear the widely watched federal medical marijuana case of the Kettle Falls Five has continued the federal trial scheduled to begin today in Spokane, Washington. Senior Judge Fred Van Sickle has been replaced by Judge Thomas O. Rice, who set a new trial date of February 23, 2015.
The change in trial date comes as the U.S. Senate plans to consider a measure later this week that would prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) funds from being spent on medical marijuana enforcement in states where it's legal. Advocates say that federal prosecutions like the Kettle Falls Five, as well as pending asset forfeiture cases in California, would be impacted by the passage of such a measure.
After the House made its historic 219-189 vote in May to curb DOJ funding for medical marijuana enforcement, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) filed a similar budget amendment in the Senate. The bipartisan amendment filed in June is expected to be voted on in a House-Senate conference committee as early as Wednesday.
The change in trial date also came soon after CNN ran the latest national media piece on the Kettle Falls Five, discussing the contradictions between Washington's adult-use and medical marijuana laws and the prosecution of state compliant patients like the Kettle Falls Five.
By contrast, implementation of Initiative 502 is in full swing, with the Washington State Liquor Control Board overseeing the licensing of more than 500 adult-use marijuana businesses, including 252 for cultivation. In particular, there are 19 licensed cultivation sites in Spokane, the city in which the Kettle Falls Five will stand trial, and two in Colville, within 10 miles of the site where their legal garden was raided by federal agents.
In addition to the Kettle Falls Five, there are a number of other federal cases being vigorously pursued by U.S. Attorneys in California, Michigan, and Washington, despite written policy and official pronouncements from the Obama Administration that seem to indicate otherwise.
Photo of Larry and Rhonda Harvey: Larry Harvey/USA Today