The federal prosecution of the medical marijuana patients known as the Kettle Falls Five has drawn headlines and scrutiny for reasons too numerous to name. But yesterday, as Larry Harvey lost his life to pancreatic cancer, an inhumane reminder of the true cost of the war on medical marijuana rose to the surface.
Harvey, alongside his family, had been growing medical marijuana in Washington state, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1998. They all had doctor authorizations for their medicinal use of the plant and were growing within the legal limits. They even went as far as to post signage marking their outdoor garden. A far cry from criminals, this family had gone to great lengths to follow the state laws which explicitly allowed for the cultivation of cannabis. Despite these efforts, the DEA raided the family property in August of 2012. This began the process of an incessant legal fight, during which Harvey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As the family was drug tested as they awaited trial, all were forced to cease their use of medical marijuana.
Over the coming years, Harvey faced a dual fight. Indeed, he was fighting a nonsensical prosecution with the federal government and a battle with cancer, with medical marijuana as the misplaced centerpiece. Here, the punitive overshadowed prescription, until the prosecution dropped the charges against the terminally-ill and wheelchair-bound Harvey just a week before the trial began. On days he was well enough to attend, he bravely sat in the courtroom and watched as his wife and family faced the criminal charges brought against them.
Once his charges were dropped, Harvey immediately began a cannabis oil regimen. He also elected to end the chemotherapy treatment. Here, his energy levels increased, his hair grew back, and he was able to spend the summer with his wife, Rhonda, riding his motorcycle and traveling to Alaska. Harvey was also the recipient of Americans for Safe Access’ Patient Lobbyist of the Year award, which his wife accepted on his behalf. “Hopefully we did some good for our country and helped pass the laws,” she read from a piece of paper Harvey had written from his hospital bed.
While the federal government may not have given Larry Harvey pancreatic cancer directly, they handed him a healthy dose of injustice during a time when his life necessitated a healthy dose of wellness. And it’s what we’ll never know that will haunt the situation. What if the federal government had dropped the charges sooner? What if Harvey had access to cannabis for the duration of his battle with cancer? What if the ludicrous prosecution had never happened in the first place?
Within the couple million dollars spent on this prosecution, the freedoms jeopardized and Harvey’s passing, we find a poignant lesson lingering right before our eyes. Where a life is lost, a war can be won–for medical marijuana patients everywhere by illuminating Harvey’s life and the fight he so bravely fought.
Rest in peace, Larry Harvey. And soon, the war on medical marijuana patients everywhere.