Judge Urges Feds To Drop Charges In 'Ganja Guru' Trial

March 15, 2007

, Associated Press

A federal judge told prosecutors Friday to consider dropping pot-growing charges against self-proclaimed marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer granted the Department of Justice's motion for a delay in Rosenthal's retrial, which was scheduled to begin Monday. Earlier in the week, the judge dismissed money laundering and tax charges against Rosenthal, saying they resulted from a "vindictive prosecution."

Prosecutor George Bevan requested the postponement to review a last-minute flurry of defense motions. But Breyer said he also wants the government to assess "whether it makes sense to go forward with the marijuana prosecution" in light of his ruling.

Rosenthal, 62, was convicted on three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003. Breyer sentenced him to just one day in prison, which Rosenthal served, saying the "Guru of Ganja" reasonably believed he was growing the plants on behalf of Oakland officials for a city medical marijuana program.

A federal appeals court overturned his conviction last year because of misconduct by a juror who consulted an attorney on how to decide the case. Federal prosecutors indicted Rosenthal again in October over the same marijuana operation, adding four counts of hiding money and five counts of filing false tax returns.

In his pointed instructions to Bevan Friday, Breyer said he should estimate "if the government's resources and the court's resources are well spent" by trying Rosenthal a second time.

Breyer also said he expected the lawyer to be prepared to answer when the case returns to court on April 13 whether the government had ever retried someone who had already served his sentence.

Rosenthal, a longtime pro-marijuana activist, has written books on how to grow marijuana and how to avoid getting caught.

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