Set free by a San Francisco federal judge who sentenced him to just
one day in prison, medical cannabis grower Ed Rosenthal said today
that his case will be the catalyst to overturn all U.S. marijuana laws
under which 750,000 Americans are arrested each year.

"These laws are doomed," said Rosenthal to group of cheering
supporters outside the courthouse after his sentencing. "I am going to
make it safe for everyone to grow by bringing these laws down."

Rosenthal was convicted in January of three marijuana cultivation and
conspiracy charges. He faced more than 80 years in federal prison and
$2.5 million in fines. The Federal Probation Department had
recommended that Rosenthal be sentenced to two 21-month sentences to
be served concurrently.

Since Rosenthal was prosecuted under federal law, U.S. District Judge
Charles Breyer prevented him from using California's Prop. 215 as a
defense in his case. Prop. 215, which is not recognized by the federal
government, allows critically ill patients to grow, posses and consume
cannabis with a doctor's recommendation.

When the jurors who convicted Rosenthal later discovered that he had
been growing starter plants for patients, they renounced their guilty
verdict and announced that they had been misled. Eight of the jurors
in the case wrote a letter to Judge Breyer asking him to allow
Rosenthal to remain free. Several have since campaigned for the Truth
In Trials bill (HR1717) that would allow for an affirmative defense in
medical cannabis cases.

"Our fight is not over," said juror Eve Tulley-Dobkin after
Rosenthal's sentencing. "We have to change the law so that people in
Ed Rosenthal's circumstances do not have to go through what he did, so
that jurors get the full evidence in the trial, so that people who are
in prison get out."

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer also wrote to Judge Breyer
requesting that he impose the minimum sentence allowed under the
federal sentencing guidelines and take Prop. 215 I into account. When
sentencing Rosenthal to one day with credit for time served, Judge
Breyer acknowledged that Rosenthal had reason to believe that he was
following state and local laws.

Rosenthal asserted during his trial that he had been promised immunity
from prosecution by the city of Oakland, Calif. which passed a medical
marijuana ordinance based on an exemption in federal statute. But
Judge Breyer asserted in court that a case like Rosenthal's can never
happen again because his rulings assert that municipalities cannot
authorize the cultivation of marijuana. "This judge is dead wrong,"
said Rosenthal, who predicts that the portion of the federal law which
allows this provision will be upheld by the appellate court.

Rosenthal's attorney, Dennis Riordan, said the judge's acknowledgment
that Rosenthal believed he was acting lawfully will help Rosenthal
appeal his conviction to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Judge
Breyer forbid jurors to hear arguments that he was entrapped because
he relied on the advice of public officials.

"Judge Breyer gave us a very, very powerful weapon in the fight to
convince the 9th Circuit that it was wrong to prevent the jury from
passing its own judgment on the reasonability of Ed's belief," says
Riordan. "The federal government view is that the people involved in
this act acted in bad faith and are really drug dealers at heart. And
the judge certainly said today that the people who are involved in
this movement have acted in good faith and believe in the legality of
what they are doing."

Riordan noted that Rosenthal's sentencing does not directly impact the
current laws on marijuana. But if the appeals court rules that cities
can offer immunity under federal statutes, he said it could have an
"enormous effect" on the ability of growers and caregivers to provide
medical cannabis. Riordan added that Rosenthal's legal team would also
argue the appeal based on Commerce Clause and 9th and 10th Amendment

George Bevan, the U.S. prosecutor who tried the case, had no comment
on the sentencing. But Rosenthal said after his sentencing that Bevan
lied to the Grand Jury to secure his indictment. He added that the
judge did him no favors by handing down a one-day sentence. Rosenthal
charged that Judge Breyer manipulated the evidence at his trial and
called for the judge's resignation.

"This is day one in the crusade to bring down the marijuana laws, all
the marijuana laws," said Rosenthal, who noted that there are
currently 100,000 people in prison for marijuana crimes. "I don't
think one day is justice - no one should serve any time."

Rosenthal, author of several books on marijuana cultivation, will
remain on supervised release for three years and pay a $1,300 fine. In
the meantime, his wife Jane Klein says marijuana activists should
pressure lawmakers to change marijuana laws. "This case has shown that
it is worth speaking up, that silence is no longer an acceptable
answer for our political leaders" said Klein. "Congress are you listening?"

Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jun 2003
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Media Institute