Ed Rosenthal was re-sentenced today to one-day time already served for his
re-conviction during his re-trial by the federal government for
cultivating medical cannabis in Oakland in 2002. The feds thought
Rosenthal should serve 5-15 years. Ed argues he’s not a criminal and
should not have served one day. Jurors in the original trial consulted
attorneys when they questioned the legitimacy of the judge’s instructions.
A retrial was ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
There was no truth allowed at this retrial. Witnesses were silenced.
State law nor intent were allowed in the courtroom. Ed’s attorneys were
threatened with a mistrial if they informed the jury about their right to
Ed’s re-conviction has emboldened the feds and DEA to continue its assault
on our State’s laws. The DEA supposedly gets its next chunk of change for
the year on July 15th. They attacked LA two days after they received
their first check in January 2007. Patient-advocates around the state are
braced for further attacks by the feds.
This August PAN will be meeting members of Congress to discuss
reintroducing the Truth in Trials Act. This Act would not allow what
happened in Judge Breyer’s courtroom to never happen again. Attorneys
would have been able to argue that State law is indeed relevant and that
their client never intended to break the law. Jurors could have learned
that the state and federal conflict is easily remedied with an acquittal.
Below is an article by hero Mikki Norris that succinctly articulates the
importance of the Rosenthal case to all medical cannabis cultivators,
justice, jurors’ rights and state’s rights throughout the country.
Stay Safe and Get Involved!
Unfair Playing Field: The Ed Rosenthal Trial
By Mikki Norris
The Rosenthal trial is now over, but the Drug War continues with truth and
justice as its primary victims. It was quite a show as the attorneys did
the best they could playing on an uneven field. If it accomplished
anything, it was an expose of the broken criminal justice system and the
glaring conflict between state and federal laws.
The cards were stacked against Ed from the beginning. The judge prevented
mention of medical marijuana, Prop. 215, the fact that Ed was considered a
deputy of the City of Oakland, the motive for Ed’s actions, etc. There was
no jury of his peers — those who felt strongly about the right to medical
marijuana were “excused” from jury service by the judge — 60% of the jury
pool the day it was selected. The jury ended up consisting of people who
did not care about medical marijuana one way or another (certainly not
Defense attorneys Shari Greenberger, Robert Amparan, and Omar
Figueroa did their best to play the game, despite constant interruptions
by Judge Charles Breyer, creating an air of censorship in the courtroom.
“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” was one of the
greatest casualties of the trial. Threats of contempt of court for
bringing up references to the patients or medical marijuana issues, the
political nature of the prosecution, and the constant chastising of the
attorneys in front of the jury made the attorneys feel that the judge was
making them look stupid in their effort to provide a “vigorous defense.”
In federal court, there is no medical defense. In federal court, marijuana
has no medical value, and California’s rule of law is irrelevant. Still,
it was heartening to see and hear these young attorneys “speak truth to
power” as they stated their case and stood their ground as much as
possible. Many attorneys would be cowed into retreat before a federal
judge, but they weren’t.
The attorneys and Ed soon learned that they could not play the court’s
game of half-truths before the jury. When it was time for them to put up
their defense, they opted out of the game. The censorship was too much.
They were not allowed to present witnesses that would show that Ed was in
compliance with California laws or that as a deputy of the City of Oakland
he had immunity from prosecution for providing cannabis to patients.
Instead, they decided to rely on closing arguments that would discredit
the federal government’s case by exposing the pattern of lies that the
government puts forth, its track record of withholding truth from the
public, and to appeal to the jury’s allegiance to California (and by
inference, what this trial was really about – the California patients’
right to medical marijuana). The judge cautioned them ahead of time that
he would not tolerate references to the jury’s right to vote their
conscience or judge the law (jury nullification), but they managed to let
them know that given the government’s track record of lies, they could not
trust the government’s case. Further, they informed the jury that they
could not be punished for having doubts, rejecting government “facts” and
voting to acquit.
Despite the government’s best efforts, the jury knew that this case was
about medical marijuana. The stakes next to the clones and plant cuttings
that were entered into evidence were labeled “Medifarm”; the dispensaries
that were allegedly supplied marijuana were named The Harm Reduction
Center (which the prosecutor repeatedly shortened to “Harm,” despite the
defense attorneys vigilant objections to that inference) and the Berkeley
Patients Group. Rick Watts, a government hostile witness who was arrested
and dragged into court wearing a “Defend Medical Marijuana” T-shirt, told
of how the government destroyed his life, and made many references to
patients in his testimony. All of this made the jury ask the judge such
questions as “Isn’t medical marijuana legal in California?” and “Doesn’t
Prop. 215 cover Oakland?” To which the simple response was: “this is
The federal judge reminded the jury that when they agreed to serve on the
jury, they swore to uphold federal law. It was no surprise that they were
too afraid to stand up for California and defy the judge’s instructions.
After all, they were “good Americans” who were pawns in this skewed game.
They really had no option (uninformed of jurors’ rights as they were) but
to play by the government’s unfair rules with their railroad pointed in
one direction — toward a guilty verdict. So, they brought the trial to
its unjust but natural conclusion by convicting Ed of three marijuana
charges (acquitting him of one, and one charge that was hung was
dismissed). [Note: Ed did not deny growing marijuana, just that he had
acted within state law to relieve the suffering of California patients].
In the eyes of the federal government, DEA, prosecutor George Bevan, and
the newly appointed, Alberto Gonzalez replacement US Attorney for the
Northern District of California, Scott Schools, Ed Rosenthal is a now
labeled a common criminal, a drug trafficker, and a felon. They will
chalk this one up as a “win.” But to many of us Californians, Ed is a
hero. He did not back down. He is still standing his ground; still
fighting for the American principles of truth, justice, and compassion. He
is joined by more heroes in this case — the “Silent Seven” courageous
witnesses that refused to testify against Ed. They refused to play the
game, to be used as government snitches, to turn their backs on their
community. They may still face contempt charges and be fined or face jail,
but their resolve is strong and they have maintained the respect and
support of the movement and their peers. Hopefully, the judge will
respect this, too, and see to it that they do not have to pay for their
recalcitrance. After all, he is a Californian, too.
It’s just sad that in the “criminal justice” system, our common sense of
justice is barred from the courtroom. It’s also frustrating that the
“whole truth” has become censored and perceived as a threat to the rule of
law. Above all, this trial has illustrated that changes need to be made
at the federal level to prevent the further erosion of the democratic
process and the states’ rights to set their own health policies and laws.
The federal law prohibiting medical marijuana is just plain wrong, and
denying patients access to a medication that helps relieve their suffering
and prosecuting those courageous people who will defy that law to help
them is offensive and unjust. This needs to change. Until that happens, we
need to even out the playing field. We can start by pressuring Congress to
pass the “Truth in Trials Act, “ which would allow state law to be used in
one’s defense in federal court. If that were the case in this trial,
chances are the jury would have come to different verdict and acquitted
Ed. Or, the case might not have been brought to trial in the first place
knowing that this is a losing issue for the federal government.
Convicted medical pot grower avoids prison sentence
Ed Rosenthal, the self-described “Guru of Ganja,” will not spend any time
in prison despite a conviction for growing and distributing hundreds of
marijuana plants, a federal judge ruled Friday.
A jury convicted Rosenthal, 63, in May of three cultivation and conspiracy
charges after U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer prohibited his
lawyers from telling the jury that Rosenthal was working for a pot club
sanctioned by the city of Oakland.
On Friday, Breyer said the one-day prison sentence was still punishment
enough for Rosenthal, who once wrote the “Ask Ed” column for High Times
magazine and has written books with titles including “The Big Book of
Buds” and “Ask Ed: Marijuana Law. Don’t Get Busted.”
Nonetheless, Rosenthal said he still planned to appeal his conviction.
“I should not remain a felon,” he said.
Rosenthal was previously convicted of the same charges four years ago.
Breyer sentenced him to one day in prison because Rosenthal reasonably
believed he was immune from prosecution because he was acting on behalf of
Oakland city officials. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned
that 2003 conviction and ordered a retrial because of juror misconduct.
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that marijuana is still an
illegal drug under federal law even in states like California that have
legalized the plant for medicinal uses.