Cannabis News


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 rules. 

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 prison. 

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 selective prosecution. 

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 acquit." 

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 

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