Originally published July 1 2014
Feds aggressively prosecute family for medical marijuana and insist state laws don't matter
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Shortly after voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures decriminalizing the possession and recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, Natural News editor Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, wrote a piece in which he made a prediction about the federal government's reaction:
"According to President Obama, the federal government rules the nation and can bypass state laws to make arrests of pot users or growers, even when marijuana possession been deemed perfectly legal by the states! This is, of course, government arrogance and a gross overstepping of the limits of federal government as outlined in the United States Constitution.
"But Washington D.C. does not seem to care about any constitutional limits of power. And the DEA, as always, is far more interested in expanding its own power than abiding by state laws. So watch for the DEA to specifically target marijuana users in Washington and Colorado in the near future in order to demonstrate some tyranny in the face of these new laws."
It appears as though he was right.
No right to present irrelevant evidence
According to US News, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington is in the process of prosecuting four members of one family as well as a friend of that family for growing a small, rural marijuana garden that they claim was for personal medical use. A visit to the office in Spokane recently by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder "didn't immediately benefit" them, the report said.
The case against the Kettle Falls Five, as they are called, has easily become the most high-profile medical marijuana prosecution this year and is currently nearing trial as federal lawmakers consider cutting off funding for such enforcement. During a June 23 conference call, prosecutors argued with federal Judge Fred Van Sickle and defense lawyers that the defendants should not be permitted to tell jurors that the marijuana was for medical uses.
"There is no right to present irrelevant evidence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Caitlin Baunsgard said, dismissing the applicability of the state's medical marijuana law to federal charges. "Medical marijuana is not a defense."
"What they were doing was illegal under federal law," Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks added, US News reported. Hicks also cast doubt about the defendants' "false and phony claim that it was for medical purposes."
The judge said that he was in agreement with the prosecutors and would likely not be reconsidering a decision that he handed down in May barring that defense.
"These things are not relevant and would confuse the jury," he said, noting that he would review other defense arguments to include one that claims that the entire prosecution is an example of selective law enforcement.
Holder's visit was not covered widely in local press, but advocates for further legalization of marijuana hoped that he would chastise federal prosecutors over their decision to move forward with the case. US News said that it wasn't clear whether he broached the subject with prosecutors and the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
Marijuana use is still a federal crime
As US News points out:
"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."
Still, right or wrong, the possession and use of marijuana, with the exception of strict cases of medical use, remains a federal crime.
The Kettle Falls Five are facing a number of felony charges, including firearms charges that, if they are convicted, come with mandatory five-year minimum sentences. The defendants have argued that their gun ownership was not related to the marijuana.
In August, Holder advised prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.
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