Oakland Authority on Medical Pot Faces Federal Trial
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Chronicle - Page A - 17
Contact: [email protected]
He had been deputized to distribute.
To his supporters, Ed Rosenthal is the sage of marijuana, the man to go to
for advice on growing your own and staying out of trouble, and the city-
approved supplier of medicinal pot for the desperately ill.
To federal prosecutors, medical marijuana is a sham, and Rosenthal is just
another drug criminal. And when the 58-year-old Oakland resident goes on
trial in San Francisco federal court today, the feds will be making the
Rosenthal -- the "Ask Ed" columnist for High Times and Cannabis
Culture magazines, author of more than a dozen books and expert witness at
numerous criminal trials -- is charged with crimes that include growing
more than 100 marijuana plants and conspiring to grow more than 1,000. The
conspiracy charge carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in federal
The plants, confiscated by federal drug agents at an Oakland warehouse
last February, were intended for patients at the Harm Reduction Center, a
medical marijuana club. Agents also raided the club that day, which
happened -- not coincidentally, Rosenthal's supporters say -- to be the
day U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson was in San
Francisco to give a speech.
Rosenthal had been deputized by the city of Oakland as an officer in the
city's program to distribute medical marijuana under California's
Proposition 215. The 1996 initiative allows patients, with a doctor's
recommendation, to grow and use marijuana without facing prosecution under
state drug laws.
But Rosenthal's jury may not hear anything about his deputized status, his
medicinal motives or even about Prop. 215. U.S. District Judge Charles
Breyer has ruled medical marijuana irrelevant to the case, just as other
judges have ruled in recent federal pot cases in California.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal drug laws, which consider it to be
a drug with no legitimate use and recognize no exceptions for claims of
medical need. That was reaffirmed in 2001 when the U.S. Supreme Court
allowed the federal government to shut down the Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Cooperative, rejecting arguments that the club was entitled to distribute
marijuana to patients with a medical necessity and no legal alternative.
The DEA has raided medical marijuana growers in several other California
cities, including Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, but denies singling them out
and says it is targeting major traffickers. Lawyers for Rosenthal, the
highest- profile defendant to face trial so far, contend he is being
targeted both for his views and for his stature as a spokesman, but they
failed to persuade Breyer to dismiss the charges on the grounds of
Despite the judge's rulings, the defense is hoping to find a way to let
jurors know that the case involves medical marijuana. During jury
selection last week, large numbers of prospective jurors were disqualified
because of their answers to questions about Prop. 215.
Outside the courthouse, Rosenthal's supporters handed out leaflets that
did not mention the case but noted that jurors have the "right to
Related Articles & Web Sites:
High Times Magazine
Cannabis Culture Magazine
Clash on Medical Marijuana Puts a Grower in Court
The Trial of Ed Rosenthal
The Right To Not Be in Pain
Medical Issues, City Law Disallowed in Pot Trial