Pubdate: Fri, 11 May 2007
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Ed Rosenthal)
Bookmark:  (Angel Raich)


One Case Dropped; Ruling Bars Defense Claim In Second

A medical marijuana patient whose challenge to federal drug laws
reached the U.S. Supreme Court dropped her long-running legal case
Thursday, while in another case a noted pot advocate lost an attempt
to introduce evidence about the medicinal value of cannabis at his
retrial on cultivation charges.

The separate developments represented victories for federal
prosecutors who have sought to override California's 1996 medical
marijuana initiative in federal court. Although the law, which allows
patients to use the drug with their doctor's recommendation, remains
in effect, patients and suppliers can be prosecuted under federal law
that recognizes no legitimate use for marijuana.

Angel Raich of Oakland, who uses marijuana every two hours to combat
the pain of scoliosis, endometriosis, a brain tumor and a wasting
syndrome, dropped her lawsuit Thursday that sought to prohibit federal
prosecution of gravely ill medical marijuana patients.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in her case that federal
narcotics laws could be applied to users and suppliers of locally
grown marijuana. The justices said Congress' power to regulate
interstate commerce includes drugs that are commonly trafficked across
state lines.

Other issues in the case were returned to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in San Francisco, which in March rejected Raich's claim
that a federal prosecution would violate her constitutional right to
preserve her life and be free of severe pain. The court said, however,
that if Raich is ever prosecuted, she can defend herself by showing
that she needs marijuana to prevent death or intolerable pain, and
that legal drugs are ineffective.

"I've lost all faith in the judicial system," Raich, 41, said in a
statement announcing her decision not to appeal the latest ruling.

She said that she needs radiation treatment for her brain tumor, which
she said has flared up and is causing nerve damage, but that after she
recovers, she will resume lobbying in Congress for a bill to prevent
federal prosecutions in the 12 states with medical marijuana laws.

In San Francisco, Ed Rosenthal, an authority on marijuana growing and
advocate of legalization, faces retrial next week on charges of
growing pot for a medical dispensary. His first conviction, in 2003,
was overturned by a federal appeals court last year because of a
juror's improper telephone call to an attorney friend for advice
during deliberations.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer excluded evidence about the
marijuana's intended medical use at Rosenthal's first trial and
reaffirmed that position Thursday, rejecting arguments by a new team
of defense lawyers that Rosenthal's state of mind was relevant to the
case because the prosecution must prove he intentionally committed a

"The government doesn't have to show (Rosenthal) thought it was
illegal," but merely that he knowingly grew marijuana, Breyer said.

He said Rosenthal's belief that he was legally authorized to grow pot
plants as an agent of the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program
was also irrelevant to the charges.

After the first trial, Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to the one day in
jail he had already served, rather than the five-year minimum normally
required by federal law.

Prosecutors, who tried unsuccessfully to add charges of tax evasion
and money laundering that could have led to imprisonment, have
acknowledged that Rosenthal will face no additional punishment if
convicted again. But they have proceeded with the retrial despite
Breyer's suggestion last month that taxpayer dollars might be better
spent on other cases.
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