Marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal freed after one-day sentence
KIM CURTIS, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, June 4, 2003
(06-04) 10:39 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --
Ed Rosenthal, the self-proclaimed "Guru of Ganja," walked free Wednesday after a federal judge sentenced him to one day in prison for a marijuana conviction. He could have been sentenced to as much as 60 years behind bars.
Rosenthal, convicted in February of growing more than 100 marijuana plants in an Oakland warehouse, has become the focus of a growing national debate about medical marijuana and a battle between the federal government and the nine states that have declared such use legal.
Rosenthal, 58, has argued his actions were legal under a 1996 law passed by California voters that allows pot use for medical purposes. He also said he was acting as an agent for the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program.
"I take responsibility for my actions that bring me here today. I took these actions because my conscience led me to help people who are suffering," Rosenthal said outside the courtroom. "These laws are doomed."
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to one day in prison on each of three counts, to run concurrently, and then set him free after declaring Rosenthal had already served that time. Rosenthal, also fined $1,000, will be on supervised release for three years.
The ruling was met by wild cheering and applause in the courtroom.
"I think it's a marvelous victory for states' rights and the medical use of marijuana," said Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "It sends a strong signal to the federal government that they should reconsider their current program of arresting patients and caregivers in California.
"At a time when they should be concerned about terrorism, they are spending significant resources chasing, arresting and prosecuting medical marijuana cases."
Several of the jurors who found Rosenthal guilty of marijuana cultivation later said they would have acquitted him if they had known he was growing the plants for patients in Oakland. Breyer did not allow any mention of medical marijuana at the trial.
Last week, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked Breyer for leniency in Rosenthal's sentencing, citing the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The federal probation department recommended a 21-month prison term. Prosecutors asked for a 61/2-year prison term.
Prosecutor George Bevan said Wednesday that Rosenthal was not simply helping the ill.
"This operation is a cash cow. He put out thousands and thousands of plants," Bevan said. "I don't think anyone disagrees with helping sick people, but as far as we're concerned, it was a business. His cultivation is a direct violation of state laws."