Last year, Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, were convicted of illegally growing up to 100 cannabis plants on Firestack-Harvey’s property and sentenced from 30 months to one year and one day in federal prison for their “crimes.” Firestack-Harvey’s husband, Larry Harvey, and family friend Jason Zucker were also included at first, but Harvey was released due to his terminal pancreatic cancer and passed away in August of 2015. Zucker pleaded his sentence down to 16 months.
In order to appeal their sentences to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and send a Change.org petition to President Obama, the three family members have set up an Indiegogo page here. The defendants were operating their home grow legally under Washington’s state laws, but their plants were still illegal under federal law.
The Greggs’ Home Grow Operation
The Greggs’ home grow consisted of between 50 and 100 marijuana plants, a number which was reported by numerous sources to be within Washington’s medical marijuana law amounts. According to NORML, Washington medical patients may grow up to 6 plants for personal medical use; if it is recommended by a physician, they can grow up to 15 plants. Since all four of the growers and Larry Harvey had a qualifying medical condition, the five people who were growing on the property would be allowed at most 75 plants – even if all four of the other growers were caregivers – thus sparking the debate over whether or not the five were exceeding the state limit for marijuana plants on their property.
Rhonda, Larry, and their son and daughter-in-law were all state-legal medical marijuana patients – which should have meant they could have up to 75 plants legally, but not at the same location. The DEA used year-old photos seized from the 2012 raid on the Gregg’s property in an attempt to charge each defendant with growing over 100 plants. The Greggs were not criminals – Rolland was an alternative energy developer, and his wife worked at Microsoft – yet they were each sentenced to one year and a day in prison, along with Rhonda. Currently all three Greggs are free pending appeal, and their situation has been shocking to most Americans.
The Misinterpretation of the Government in the Greggs’ Case
The US News noted that “federal agents and prosecutors generally respect local laws” concerning medical marijuana, but that The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington has been less than accommodating. It stated that all five people involved in the grow were actually drug dealers. The website for the attorney’s office notes numerous extensive drug trafficking sentences (heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription painkillers), but none for marijuana. The problem with the Greggs’ case is, of course, that they should have been under the jurisdiction of the state, and that it is questionable whether or not they actually broke the law (as of yet, there seems to be no evidence that they were dealing or trafficking).
Either way, the five do not seem the criminal, drug-dealing types the media would report on for harder drugs, and the mere fact that Larry Gregg had terminal cancer should demonstrate the moral reason for the family grow. The real question is how far should the federal government be able to go in prosecuting residents and medical marijuana patients for marijuana cultivation? The Greggs are fighting for their rights under Washington law, and deserve an appeal in this case. The public outcry should also be noted by the prosecutors and the judge who hears the case, and a sound decision must be made. The Greggs clearly do not deserve to do hard time in a prison facility, although at least this sentence isn’t racially motivated.
How We Can Help
The Greggs need public backing for the verdict to be appealed – and even that might not save them. However, if anything can sway a U.S. judge, it might be a public outcry over the unfairness of this case and the problem with prosecuting medical marijuana grows in states where it is legal. The laws must be more clearly defined, so people can avoid prosecution for trying to help friends and family members with illnesses, and so the DEA know what situations it can legally prosecute against.