Editorial: Marijuana Martyr
Ed Rosenthal, center, embraces juror Charles Sackett, right, outside a federal courthouse in San Francisco, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2003. Rosenthal, 58, the self-described 'Guru of Ganja,' was convicted Friday, Jan. 31, 2003, of cultivation and other drug charges by a jury that almost immediately questioned its own verdict. Several jurors have said they would have acquitted him had they been told he was growing medical marijuana for the city of Oakland, Calif.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]
Medicinal grower faces rest of life in prison.
The Bush administration may have just won a case against medicinal marijuana in a federal court, but prosecutors' shameful tactics should cost President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft dearly in the court of public opinion.
The case was against Ed Rosenthal, a longtime medicinal marijuana activist known as the "ganja guru." The city of Oakland had licensed him to cultivate the crop for patients as sanctioned under California's medicinal marijuana law, Proposition 215.
But a federal anti-drug team raided Rosenthal's property, confiscated the crop and arrested him under federal law, which has no exemption similar to Proposition 215 for any medicinal purpose.
Prosecutors never told the jury that they caught wind of Rosenthal thanks to Proposition 215 or the city of Oakland. He was portrayed as any old scum bag in the drug trade. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer refused to allow the jury to know Rosenthal's medicinal motive, for motive can be excluded as evidence when it comes to concluding whether a crime did or did not occur. So jurors convicted Rosenthal.
Then they went home, picked up the newspaper and learned the full picture. Some are now aghast at their role in sending the 58-year-old Californian to prison for a sentence that could be as long as 85 years.
This is a situation where the court of public opinion is relevant to the courts of justice. Proposition 215 clearly conveyed a prevailing public sentiment that distinguishes between recreational use of marijuana and consumption to stimulate an appetite after a grueling round of chemotherapy.
State courts are not blind to this difference, for Proposition 215 and all its vagaries can be fully vetted in a state trial. Federal courts, at least for now, can ignore state and local medicinal marijuana policies.
Congress could right this wrong by passing a law allowing state medicinal marijuana statutes to be introduced as evidence in federal courts if they are relevant to the particular case.
This change would undoubtedly bring to an end federal prosecution of medicinal marijuana cultivators such as Rosenthal, for jurors would rarely vote to convict. And it could even end the circus-like federal raids of their property.
That would all be good for the real war on drugs, not the one that Bush, through Ashcroft, is now waging against the likes of Rosenthal.
Related Articles & Web Sites:
Americans For Safe Access
Ed Rosenthal's Trial Pictures & Articles
Jurors Who Convicted Grower Seek New Trial
Reluctant Jury Convicts Medical Pot Grower