In my latest Forbes column, I consider the case of the Kettle Falls Five, medical marijuana users in Washington who face at least 10 years in prison for growing their own medicine. Here is how the column starts:
Sean Green grows marijuana at 1919 East Francis Avenue in Spokane, about six miles from the courthouse where the federal government plans to try Larry Harvey, a 70-year-old retired truck driver, for growing marijuana. Green's operation is a lot bigger than Harvey's: up to 21,000 square feet of plant canopy, compared to the 45 plants that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found on Harvey's property in a rural area of northeastern Washington about 10 miles from Kettle Falls. The difference in scale makes sense, because Green is growing pot for Washington's newly legal recreational market, while Harvey and four other medical marijuana users were growing it for their own consumption. Both kinds of cultivation are allowed under Washington law, and both are prohibited under federal law. Yet Green's future as a cannabis entrepreneur looks bright, while Harvey and his co-defendants face prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life.