Retrial Of Marijuana Activist Begins

May 14, 2007

Bay City News, NBC 11 News

A U.S. prosecutor told a federal jury in San Francisco today that Oakland marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal operated a large and sophisticated marijuana growing operation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan said Rosenthal grew thousands of plants and sold them to what Bevan termed "so-called marijuana clubs" in the Bay Area until his Oakland warehouse was raided by federal agents in 2002.

Today was the first day of a retrial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer for Rosenthal, 62, on five counts of growing and selling marijuana at the warehouse and a now-defunct San Francisco dispensary.

Rosenthal was previously convicted in Breyer's court in 2003 on three similar counts and sentenced to one day in prison.

But a federal appeals court overturned the conviction last year on the ground that a juror engaged in misconduct by consulting a lawyer friend during deliberations.

Rosenthal, the author of more than a dozen books about marijuana, has claimed outside of court that he was growing starter plants for patients who need the drug under California's medical marijuana law.

But he has not been allowed to raise that argument in his trials because federal drug laws make no exception for the state law.

Defense attorney Shari Greenberger referred obliquely to Rosenthal's role during her opening statement by calling him "a proponent of marijuana advocacy and reform" for 40 years.

Greenberger told the jury the prosecution's four key witnesses - alleged former colleagues of Rosenthal's - are convicted felons, drug addicts, thieves, and in one case a professional ticket scalper. She urged the jury to distrust the witnesses and acquit Rosenthal.

Greenberger said, "Tell the government 'no,' not on these facts and not on these witnesses." Testimony in the trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

The charges against Rosenthal include conspiring to grow and sell marijuana at the Oakland warehouse between 1998 and 2002; using the warehouse to grow marijuana; and growing marijuana there.

Other counts are conspiring to use the Harm Reduction Center in San Francisco between 2000 and 2002 for the purpose of growing and selling marijuana and using that location for grow and distribute the drug.

Prosecutors have told the judge that if Rosenthal is convicted, they won't seek a sentence greater than the one day already served, but have said that going ahead with the retrial is part of their mandate to enforce federal criminal laws.


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