President Obama should quickly grant clemency before sentencing to a family found guilty Tuesday of growing medical marijuana in Kettle Falls, Wash.
After a wasteful one-week federal trial, a jury acquitted the family of the four most serious charges, including selling pot and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime. But the family was convicted of growing pot — an undisputed fact — that may subject three good people to a five-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence.
President Obama needs to use his clemency power to bring federal law enforcement under control, to stop a stubborn bureaucracy from wasting time and money attacking medical marijuana where it is legal under state law. State authorities should be allowed to run the show. In this case, state authorities didn’t charge the family — and that should have ended it.
Federal drug warriors are moving far beyond enforcement and into a crusade that extends deeply into politics and policy. The Drug Enforcement Administration falsely claims it focuses only on big big marijuana operations selling to non-patients. The reality is otherwise. A straight-laced real estate agent is ranked as Michigan’s No. 2 prisoners most deserving clemency because of his unjust federal prosecution for a medical marijuana operation that completed with state law (and local zoning).
Federal courts and juries can only do so much. This family’s victory on four of five charges was in many ways a remarkable victory because the accused weren’t allowed to tell the jury the pot was medical marijuana and complied with state regulations.
Last year, Obama took bold executive action to protect the families of undocumented immigrants. He needs to do the same now to protect medical marijuana growers.
This is exactly why presidential clemency exists. The one elected official is responsible for thinking about the common good, not local or bureaucratic interests. It’s why Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam Era draft dodgers and why George Washington granted clemency to those convicted of treason in the Whiskey Rebellion.
The DEA’s self-interest makes it genetically incapable of doing right on this issue. “Some federal law enforcement officials are addicted to punishing people for marijuana-related offenses,” said Robert Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project before the trial.
Pre-sentencing clemency for the “Kettle Falls Five” wouldn’t just help keep Rhonda, Roland and Michelle out of federal prison. It also would send a clear and unmistakable message — the kind drug warriors profess to care about — that the federal bureaucracy must respect the will of the people, state governments and individuals on the issue of medical marijuana.