Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jun 2003
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Examiner
Author: J. K. Dineen, Of The Examiner Staff


In a historic day for the medical marijuana movement, Ed Rosenthal
walked away a free man Wednesday, as a federal judge sentenced him to
a single day in prison for growing marijuana in violation of federal

While Rosenthal's friends and family cheered Judge Charles Breyer's
unexpectedly light sentence in the courtroom, hundreds of
banner-waving pot legalization partisans cheered and chanted "Ed, Ed,
Ed" outside on the streets.

Federal Prosecutor George Bevan had asked for a six-and-a-half year
sentence, characterizing Rosenthal as a drug kingpin and his medical
marijuana operation "a cash cow."

But if Judge Breyer expected the ganja advocate to give thanks for his
leniency by bowing beneath his judicial robes, he misunderstood Rosenthal.

Instead of relief or contrition, the combative counterculture guru
responded to his liberation with characteristic defiance, calling
Breyer a "corrupt judge" who ought to be "thrown off the bench."

"While I am happy I got only one day, it's one day too many," said
Rosenthal flanked by his wife and two children. "I don't think just
one day is justice."

Breyer said the light sentence was justified because of the
'"extraordinary circumstances" of the case - namely that growing
medical pot is legal under a voter-approved California law and that
Rosenthal had sought and received approval from Oakland

"The court finds the circumstances of the offense are highly
unusual," said Breyer, wearing his characteristic bow tie. "Rosenthal
is hereby sentenced to custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons for
one day with credit for time served."

Rosenthal's post-sentencing press conference featured all the
characters that made his trial great theater. There were the
wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patients who would arrive at the
courtroom each day smelling of their medicine. There were the jilted
jurors, who have gone national with their contention that Judge Breyer
misled them by not allowing into the courtroom evidence dealing with
medical pot or California law.

There was Rosenthal's steadfast wife Jane Klein and 14-year-old
daughter Justine, who brought her schoolbooks into the courtroom and
led the prosecution to seek a gag order after the first day of the
trial when she appeared on the cover of The Examiner with the headline
"My Dad's A Hero."

On Wednesday, Justine Rosenthal said: "The joy I feel right now is
overwhelming. I had almost lost hope."

During the press conference, Rosenthal's lawyers said they have no
plans to drop an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as he
objects to the felony conviction, even if he is a free man.

"Absolutely not. Ed has suffered a federal conviction," Dennis Riordan
said. "That is an onerous burden for anyone to carry."

Jury foreman Charles Sackett, a landscape contractor from Sebastopol,
said the trial had changed his life.

"A lot of funny things have happened to me since this trial started,
including my teenage son asking me if I'm still an advocate for the
guru of ganja - yes I am," he said.

While Rosenthal had no kind words for Breyer, in an interview with The
Examiner, his wife acknowledged that they had been done a good turn.

"I do commend and I do thank Judge Breyer for his decision," she

Rosenthal said he plans to fight for other medical marijuana growers
who have been charged by the federal government.

"But this is an historic day, this is day one in the crusade to bring
down the marijuana laws, all marijuana laws," he said. "All marijuana
should be legal." 
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