Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2015
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press


Man With Pancreatic Cancer Won't Face Charges, but Friend, Family 
Members Not Off Hook

SPOKANE (AP) - The Justice Department has dropped its case against a 
71-year-old man charged in a northeastern Washington marijuana bust 
because he was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Larry Harvey faced federal charges - as did his wife, two other 
relatives and a family friend - after they were caught two years ago 
growing about 70 pot plants on their rural, mountainous property near 
Kettle Falls. Harvey said he used the marijuana to ease pain from 
gout, but the government argued that the family's operation did not 
comply with the state's medical marijuana law, and marijuana remains 
illegal under federal law.

The government dropped its charges against Harvey on Wednesday, 
citing his serious illness, but the charges remain against the 
others. They could face trial as soon as next week.

"I'm thankful the charges against me have been dropped so that I can 
focus on my battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer," Harvey said in a 
written statement issued Thursday by Americans for Safe Access, a 
medical marijuana advocacy group. "However, if the Department of 
Justice truly has concerns for my well-being, it will dismiss the 
case against my entire family. We have suffered long enough."

He described his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, as his sole caregiver 
and said she has been cooking for him, making sure he takes his 
medicine, and using a tractor to do all of the upkeep on their land.

The case has drawn wide attention in a state where the recreational 
use of pot is legal, and it has outraged medical marijuana advocates 
because the defendants face at least 10 years in prison. Harvey had 
no criminal history, but there were guns in the home, which is part 
of the reason for the possible long prison term. The family says the 
weapons were for hunting and protection, but prosecutors say two of 
the guns were loaded and in the same room as a blue plastic tub of pot.

The DOJ has said since 2009 that prosecuting marijuana patients isn't 
a priority. It's allowing states to regulate marijuana for 
recreational or medical use, but it has reserved the right to target 
operations that don't follow state law or have ties to organized crime.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice declined early this month to dismiss 
the charges against the defendants. Defense attorneys argued that 
Congress recently banned federal funds from being used to prevent 
states from implementing their own laws on medical marijuana, but the 
judge said prosecutors had offered evidence the family was running a 
for-profit pot business.
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