Medical Pot Advocate Found Guilty
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Chronicle - Page A - 23
Feds score big victory against California law.
A federal jury in San Francisco found Ed Rosenthal, one of the nation's most prominent marijuana advocates, guilty Friday of felony conspiracy and cultivation charges -- a triumph for federal prosecutors seeking to override California's endorsement of pot as medicine.
Jurors deliberated less than a day before finding the 58-year-old Oakland resident -- a columnist for High Times and Cannabis Culture magazines and author of more than a dozen books -- guilty of all three felonies charged. Rosenthal faces a minimum of five years in prison.
His wife, brother and daughter embraced one another and wept in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. Outside, demonstrators chanted and waved signs advocating his acquittal.
The verdict ended the Bay Area's first federal medical-marijuana trial, part of a high-profile federal crackdown that started immediately after passage of Proposition 215, the 1996 California initiative that allowed seriously ill patients to obtain the drug with a doctor's approval.
"There is no such thing as medical marijuana," Richard Meyer, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Associated Press. "We're Americans first, Californians second."
The only defense victory Friday was a jury finding that Rosenthal conspired to grow more than 100 plants and not more than 1,000, which would have carried a mandatory 10-year sentence. The 100-plant finding requires at least a five- year term, which could be lessened only if Rosenthal were to cooperate with prosecutors, something he has shown no sign of doing.
"We're going to fight this case all the way," he declared outside the courthouse.
Besides conspiracy and cultivating more than 100 marijuana plants, Rosenthal was convicted of maintaining a place where marijuana was grown. Federal agents said they found more than 3,000 plants last February in an Oakland warehouse leased by Rosenthal, but his attorneys argued that most of them were rootless cuttings that were not technically "plants."
JURY FOREMAN FOR MEDICAL POT
In a final twist to the trial, the jury foreman said he hoped Rosenthal would win his appeal.
"I am for the use of medical marijuana, as a number of jurors were," Charles Sackett, 51, a construction contractor from Sebastopol, told reporters.
"We just couldn't base our decision on that. . . . We followed the letter of the law."
Later, another juror called the verdict an injustice.
"We were made to feel like we had no choice, even though we were residents of a state that has legalized medical marijuana," said Marney Craig, 58, a property manager from Novato. "It seems like we made a horrible mistake. I should have stood up and said, 'I'm not convicting.' "
Craig said she realized how much information had been kept from the jury when she drove home after the verdict and read newspaper accounts that jurors had been told to avoid during the trial.
During a week of testimony, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer rejected every defense attempt to tell the jury that Rosenthal was growing marijuana for a San Francisco medical dispensary under the terms of Prop. 215. He also barred evidence that Rosenthal had been deputized by the city of Oakland to supply marijuana to a patients' cooperative.
A TOUCH OF LENIENCY
Federal law, the judge told jurors, prohibits growing marijuana for any purpose. Earlier, he had disqualified prospective jurors who said their support for Prop. 215 would make it hard for them to follow federal law.
Breyer showed a more lenient side Friday, rejecting a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan to revoke Rosenthal's $200,000 bail and jail him until sentencing, scheduled June 4. He set a hearing for Tuesday for prosecutors to press the issue.
Although defendants facing long terms are normally jailed after conviction, "this is an extraordinary case," the judge said. "It comes in the context of Proposition 215, the vote of citizens of this state, and the relationship of the defendant and the city of Oakland."
Defense lawyers said they would ask Breyer for a new trial and, if unsuccessful, take the case to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Hoping for a sympathetic jury in a liberal stronghold, supporters of Rosenthal demonstrated outside daily with tape on their mouths, handed out flyers proclaiming jurors' right to acquit, and jammed the courtroom. But prosecutor Bevan doggedly presented a textbook case of marijuana growing, and Breyer thwarted defense attempts to bring the medical marijuana debate into the courtroom.
Related Articles & Web Sites:
Americans For Safe Access
Ed Rosenthal's Trial Pictures & Articles
Ed Rosenthal Convicted -- New Trial Sought
Jury Finds California Marijuana Guru Guilty
Guru of Ganja Convicted of Marijuana Cultivation