Pubdate: Wed, 26 Apr 2006
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: David Kravets, AP


SAN FRANCISCO-- A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned the 
pot-growing conviction of the self-proclaimed "Guru of Ganja," a 
marijuana advocate who has written books on how to grow pot and avoid 
getting caught.

The court cited jury misconduct in overturning Ed Rosenthal's 
conviction, but it otherwise upheld federal powers to charge marijuana growers.

Rosenthal was convicted in 2003 for cultivating hundreds of marijuana 
plants for a city of Oakland medical marijuana program. U.S. District 
Judge Charles Breyer sentenced him to one day in prison, saying 
Rosenthal reasonably believed he was immune from prosecution because 
he was acting on behalf of city officials.

The government sought a two-year prison term and appealed. Rosenthal 

The case drew national attention, in part, because of Rosenthal's 
status as a leading author and proponent of marijuana. It also 
underscored the federal government's position that medical marijuana 
is illegal, it has no medical value, and the will of California 
voters has no affect on federal drug laws.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court, in 
overturning the verdict, said a juror had had inappropriate 
communication with an attorney.

"Juror A" had asked a friend who is an attorney whether she had to 
follow the law or could vote her conscience because she suspected 
Rosenthal was growing marijuana for medicinal uses. The attorney told 
her she must follow the judge's instructions to follow federal law or 
she would get in "trouble."

"We hold that here the communication was an improper influence upon 
Juror A's decision to acquit or convict," the appeals court wrote.

The court rejected Rosenthal's argument that he should have been 
allowed to tell jurors he was growing marijuana for the city for 
medicinal uses.

While the case was on appeal, and despite Rosenthal's claims, the 
Supreme Court ruled again that the federal government can prosecute 
medical marijuana growers and users despite California's medical marijuana law.

Rosenthal once wrote the "Ask Ed" column for High Times magazine and 
has written books with titles including "The Big Book of Buds" and 
"Ask Ed: Marijuana Law. Don't Get Busted."

Reached by phone Wednesday, he declined immediate comment on the 
ruling, saying he had not yet read the decision.

U.S. attorney's spokesman Luke Macaulay said the office was 
considering whether to appeal or going ahead with a new trial.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman