Kettle Falls Five Could Decide Congress & DOJ Battle Over Medical Marijuana

San Francisco, CA – An appeal in the Kettle Falls Five case will bring Attorney General Jeff Session’s priority of prosecuting drug crimes into conflict with a congressional provision preventing medical marijuana prosecutions in states where it is legal.


The federal government prosecuted the so-called Kettle Falls Five family for growing marijuana, even though all family members held state-sanctioned medical authorizations in Washington State. The family was acquitted on four of the five charges and only convicted on a lesser included charge with no mandatory sentence. However, the judge sentenced the family member to jail. Today, Equal Justice Under Law, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights nonprofit, filed an appeal on behalf of the family to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Kettle Falls appeal case

Phil Telfeyan, lead attorney and Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law, said, “As more states legalize medical marijuana, this case is an egregious example of over-zealous prosecution of upstanding citizens in the federal government’s failed War on Drugs, which calls for prison sentences for totally victimless offenses. People all across the country are rightly fed up with these kinds of cases.”

Earlier this month, as part of the federal spending bill, Congress extended its provision barring the Department of Justice from using resources to prosecute marijuana users in states where medical marijuana is legal. However, in a signing statement attached to the bill, President Trump questioned the provision, while Attorney General Sessions has indicated that he will soon toughen rules in prosecuting drug crimes and could roll back some Obama-era protections against unreasonable mandatory sentences.

In the appeal, Equal Justice Under Law in part stands on the congressional provision, arguing that the D.O.J. should not have used resources to prosecute the case. The decision in this appeal will have far-reaching effects that could help decide the future of federal prosecutions of marijuana users in states where it’s legal.

About Equal Justice Under Law

Equal Justice Under Law is a legal nonprofit providing pro-bono legal services to those most in need. The organization is dedicated to achieving equality in our justice system by litigating for change in the most pressing areas of wealth-based discrimination. Since its founding in 2014, Equal Justice Under Law has filed twenty-nine lawsuits in fourteen states and the District of Columbia targeted at ending unequal practices in our justice system.

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