Conviction of 'ganja guru' overturned

April 25, 2006

, Reuters

A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of "ganja guru" Ed Rosenthal and ordered a new trial, saying a juror had tainted the case by seeking the advice of a lawyer before the verdict.

Rosenthal, the author of many books on marijuana, was sentenced in 2003 to a single day in prison -- the minimum possible in the case -- after a jury found him guilty of growing the plant in violation of federal law.

Rosenthal appealed the felony conviction on several grounds, including that the district court had acted improperly by not ordering a retrial after one of the jurors asked an attorney friend about the case.

It was on that point that Rosenthal won the backing of a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.



"The district court, upon conducting a hearing into the matter, concluded that Rosenthal failed to demonstrate prejudice and denied the motion for a new trial," Judge Betty Fletcher wrote for the panel.

"We find that the district court applied an overly burdensome standard of proof and that, under the appropriate standard of review, prejudice is evident."

Prosecutors had sought a 6-1/2 year sentence in a case that attracted wide publicity in the San Francisco area where many people believe that marijuana should be allowed for medicinal purposes.

Medical marijuana is voter-approved in California but barred by federal law.

The judge who sentenced Rosenthal said the one-day prison term was appropriate because the pot advocate believed its cultivation for medical purposes was allowed under state law.

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