California's 'ganja guru' vows conviction appeal

July 06, 2007

, Reuters

California's "ganja guru" will not have to go to jail but still plans to appeal felony marijuana convictions with the aim of renewing a courtroom fight over state and federal laws that are sharply at odds.

Ed Rosenthal, author of "Why Marijuana Should Be Legal" and other books, said on Saturday his battle with U.S. government is far from over and that he would appeal his conviction on marijuana cultivation, distribution and conspiracy charges.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Friday sentenced Rosenthal, 62, to a single day behind bars, saying the Oakland, California activist thought he was legally growing and distributing marijuana with the approval of Oakland city officials when he was arrested in 2002.

Because of time already served, he faces no jail time.

Rosenthal was one of the first prominent marijuana activists tried by federal prosecutors for growing and distributing marijuana for medical purposes after California voters in 1996 approved that use.

"I find marijuana to be exceptionally helpful," Rosenthal said, noting that while tangling in court with the U.S. government for the past five years he routinely used the drug for a medical condition, which he declined to detail.

Rosenthal predicted the U.S. government faces a losing fight against medical marijuana use in California despite having federal law on its side.

In a case involving a California woman who smokes marijuana to ease pain from an inoperable brain tumor, the San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in March found no fundamental right to marijuana for medical purposes and backed the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act barring the drug.

Californians do not seem to care about that ban to judge by the growing roster of "cannabis clubs" and medical marijuana dispensaries across the state, Rosenthal said.

"They're so out of touch with the reality on the ground," Rosenthal said, referring to the federal government. "Are people in general going to stop? Yeah, just the way they stopped producing alcohol during Prohibition."

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