Attorney General Eric Holder swooped into Spokane, Washington, without public notice Friday to visit with federal prosecutors, but his trip didn’t immediately benefit a group of indicted medical marijuana patients nicknamed the Kettle Falls Five.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington, based in Spokane, is not backing down in its multiple-felony case against four family members and a friend who tended a rural marijuana garden for what they say was personal medical use.
The case, easily the highest-profile prosecution involving medical marijuana this year, is nearing trial as federal lawmakers consider cutting the purse strings for such enforcement.
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The Kettle Falls Five prosecution appears to fly in the face of 2009 guidance from Holder's Department of Justice that prosecutors should avoid going after medical marijuana patients.
It also comes as Holder's department allows Colorado and Washington to unfurl regulated and taxed recreational marijuana markets.
The Kettle Falls Five face several felony charges, including firearms charges that come with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. The defendants say their gun ownership was unrelated to the marijuana. Holder advised prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes in August.
I don't mean laws against marijuana; I understand the sentiment that they're too tough, and I also get the reluctance to change them. And I don't mean the replacement of federal law with state and local rules -- that's a perfectly reasonable federalist approach.
But it's almost unfathomable that they would leave the federal marijuana law on the books, announce they're not really going to enforce it, encourage states to pass their own more lenient laws, then prosecute someone for violation of the federal law. That creates a situation in which we don't know from day to day and jurisdiction to jurisdiction exactly how the law will be interpreted and what you can and cannot get away with. That is law by whim, arbitrary and capricious, and it almost invites lawlessness. Hell, it does.
We tolerate them doing something like this, next thing you know they'll be using the IRS to go after their political enemies. Then where would be we?