Federal Jury Convicts 'Guru of Ganja'
May 29, 2007
Paul Elias, Associated PressThe self-proclaimed "guru of ganja" was convicted again Wednesday in federal court of illegally growing hundreds of marijuana plants that he said were meant to treat sick people, which state law allows.
Ed Rosenthal was convicted after U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer prohibited the marijuana activist's lawyers from telling the jury he was working for a pot club sanctioned by Oakland government officials. The decision underscored the tension between federal law, which prohibits marijuana, and laws in 11 states that have legalized pot for medical purposes.
"We weren't allowed to give the jury valuable information it needed to make a fair and unbiased decision," Rosenthal said.
The jury deliberated for about two days before convicting Rosenthal of growing more than 100 marijuana plants, conspiring to cultivate the drug and maintaining a growing operation in a warehouse. He was acquitted of a fourth charge, and the jury couldn't decide on the fifth.
But the 63-year-old won't serve any time in prison. That's because he was convicted of the same charges in 2003 and sentenced to a day in prison because the judge said that Rosenthal reasonably believed he was immune from prosecution because he was acting on behalf of Oakland city officials.
An appeals court tossed out that conviction because of juror misconduct. The judge, in a fruitless attempt to persuade federal prosecutors to drop the case, has said he would not sentence Rosenthal to any more prison time.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that marijuana is an illegal drug and that federal law trumps state laws, which left Rosenthal without much of a defense.
Federal prosecutor George Bevan declined to comment after the verdict was read Wednesday.
A founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Rosenthal once wrote the "Ask Ed" column for "High Times" magazine. He has written books with titles such as "The Growers Handbook," "The Big Book of Buds" and "Ask Ed: Marijuana Law. Don't Get Busted."