Federal court sticks by decision on pot guru

July 20, 2006

Josh Richman, ANG Newspapers

A federal appeals court on Wednesday declined to reconsider its April decision to overturn the felony convictions of "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal of Oakland.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had found juror misconduct — a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations — compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict, and so warrants a new trial for the renowned marijuana activist and author.

However, the panel had rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance.

The panel Wednesday refused Rosenthal's requests for rehearing, or for an "en banc" rehearing by a larger panel.

His lawyers later said they're not yet sure if they'll consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or just return to the district court should prosecutors choose to re-try him.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment.

The panel did tweak its April opinion somewhat, including deletion of a paragraph in which it had found Rosenthal was not a duly authorized city officer because the city's designation conflicted with state law. But other language which knocked down Rosenthal's immunity claim still remains.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he used to write for High Times magazine, Rosenthal, now 61, was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law, but federal law still prohibits it. Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial.

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