Pubdate: Wed, 16 May 2007
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Ed Rosenthal)


San Francisco Pot Advocate's New Trial Begins

The lawyer for marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal pushed as far as she
could Tuesday against a judge's edict to keep the subject of medical
marijuana out of his retrial on federal cultivation charges, trying to
let jurors know that  Rosenthal was growing cannabis for sick
patients. Defense attorney Shari Greenberger began her opening
statement in federal court in San Francisco by addressing jurors as
"fellow Californians,'' a less-than-subtle reminder that state voters
legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996. She later acknowledged
that "this is a federal case brought by the federal government. There
are certain areas where we cannot go.'' Greenberger said, "Mr.
Rosenthal is a scientist and the government will attempt to suppress
his ideas. ... For the past 40 years, my client, Ed  Rosenthal, has
been a proponent of marijuana advocacy and reform, and that is why we
are here.'' Her opening statement drew repeated objections from the
prosecution, and U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer told the jurors
they were there to decide whether Rosenthal was guilty of growing
marijuana, not to draw conclusions about why the government was
prosecuting him. For his part, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan
described the case as a straightforward prosecution for marijuana
cultivation. He reminded the jurors in his opening statement that they
had promised to apply the law according to Breyer's instructions.
Rosenthal, 62, an authority on marijuana cultivation and writer of
numerous books and magazine articles on the subject, was arrested in
2002 and charged with growing thousands of plants in an Oakland
warehouse for patients at a San Francisco dispensary. He was convicted
in 2003 but sentenced by Breyer to only one day in jail, which he had
already served.

The judge said Rosenthal had believed he was acting legally because
the city of Oakland had designated him as an agent in its medical
marijuana distribution program. A federal appeals court overturned the
conviction last year because of misconduct by a juror who had called
an attorney for advice during deliberations. Prosecutors tried
unsuccessfully to add charges of tax evasion and money laundering for
Rosenthal's second trial and have acknowledged that he could not be
jailed if convicted again. During jury selection Monday, prospective
panel members were asked whether their views on medical marijuana
would prevent them from judging the case fairly.

As at the first trial, Breyer has barred the defense from introducing
evidence that the marijuana was intended for medical use, and has
blocked  Rosenthal's lawyers from referring to the California
initiative that allowed patients to use the drug with their doctor's
recommendation. That didn't stop Greenberger from trying. Citing
Rosenthal's numerous appearances as an expert witness in marijuana
trials, the defense lawyer said, "His testimony for the defense on
medical cannabis did not endear him to the federal government.''
Greenberger also said a federal undercover agent had gone to the San
Francisco dispensary and "purchased marijuana that was intended for
patients.'' Bevan, the prosecutor, told jurors that Rosenthal had
operated a large, sophisticated indoor growing operation at the
Oakland warehouse from August 1996 until the time of his arrest in
February 2002, and sold thousands of plants to "so-called marijuana
clubs throughout the Bay Area.'' He said the witnesses would include
people who helped Rosenthal grow marijuana or bought plants from him.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
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