Judge Delays 'Guru Of Ganja' Trial Pending Possible Appeal

March 15, 2007

, NBC 11 News

A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday delayed a possible trial for Oakland marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal, the self-described "Guru of Ganja," while prosecutors decide whether to appeal the judge's dismissal of half the charges against him.

Rosenthal, 62, had been scheduled to go to trial in the court of U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer on Monday on marijuana cultivation charges.Earlier this week, Breyer dismissed additional money laundering and tax evasion charges against Rosenthal on the ground that those counts appeared to be vindictive prosecution.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office have 30 days from Wednesday's ruling to decide whether to appeal that dismissal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They asked the judge to delay the trial "to give the government time for review and decision making in regard to an appeal."The judge agreed to a delay and said he will consider a new trial date at another hearing on April 13.

The delay came just two days after a federal appeals court ruled that Angel Raich, of Oakland, whose doctor said marijuana is the only medicine keeping her alive, is not immune from federal prosecution on drug charges.

Raich, a mother of two, suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other ailments. On her doctor's advice, she eats or smokes marijuana every couple of hours to ease her pain and bolster a nonexistent appetite as conventional drugs did not work.

Raich told NBC11 that there needs to be more pressure put on Congress to pass a law to protect patients.

"The cannabis helps, but reality is setting in," Raich said, taking a hit of marijuana. "I'm already, in my mind, trying to think of a way I'm going to pick myself up off the floor."

Also at Friday's hearing, the judge turned down a defense request for removal of the chief prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan, on the ground that he is biased.

Breyer said he did not find Bevan to be biased and said, "I know of no reason whatsoever to disqualify the prosecutor."

Rosenthal, the author of marijuana cultivation books and a medical marijuana advocate, said after the court hearing that he feels "great" and is confident he will be acquitted if another trial is held.

Prosecutors said in a memorandum filed with Breyer Friday morning that if they do not file an appeal, or if the dismissal of the financial charges is upheld, they plan to go ahead with a trial on the drug counts.

Rosenthal was previously convicted in Breyer's court in 2003 on cultivation charges and sentenced to one day in jail, but the 9th Circuit court overturned the conviction on grounds of juror misconduct.

Prosecutors then obtained a superseding grand jury indictment adding the tax evasion and money laundering count to the original cultivation charges.

Breyer said in his dismissal ruling that the additional charges appeared to be in retaliation for Rosenthal's earlier appeal and his complaints that his first trial was unfair because he wasn't allowed to claim he was growing medical marijuana for patients.


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