Ed Rosenthal Blowback


Rosenthal, you may remember, is that pot activist convicted by a federal jury of growing marijuana, even though he was growing the plant for the city of Oakland, legally under state law. The federal jury wasn't allowed to hear any evidence about how Rosenthal was a grower licensed by Oakland, only that he broke federal law. The jury convicted him, then several jurors expressed their outrage when they realized what they had done. The sympathetic judge sentenced Rosenthal to one day in prison.

Rosenthal appealed, entirely out of principle. A federal judge overturned the verdict on the grounds of jury misconduct. Now, federal prosecutors are bringing the entire case again, with added charges against Rosenthal. He's clearly being targeted because he's a political supporter of reforming marijuana laws and because he stood up to the federal government in 2003, and won.

The good news is, the federal judge in the case is at least entertaining the idea that Rosenthal is being maliciously prosecuted:

A federal judge has asked the United States attorney here to submit all trial preparation memorandums in the case against a leading advocate of medical marijuana so that the court can determine if the government has been pursuing a "vindictive prosecution."

The judge, Charles R. Breyer, ordered the review at the request of lawyers for Ed Rosenthal, a spokesman in the effort to legalize marijuana who has been in a closely watched court battle with the government.

At a motion hearing in Federal District Court here on Friday, defense lawyers for Mr. Rosenthal urged Judge Breyer to dismiss an array of federal drug, money laundering and tax evasion charges against their client, saying an appellate court judge had overturned his conviction in a nearly identical case last year.

Drug warriors have made no bones about throwing the book at marijuana reform leaders to make a political statement. In 2005 , Karen Tandy put out a press release after the U.S. government successfully extradited Marc Emery from Canada on drug charges gleefully announcing that, "Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on." And federal prosecutors in the Tommy Chong case made sure to let jurors know that the actor had made a career "glamorizing the illegal use and distribution of marijuana and trivializing law-enforcement efforts to combat drug use".