By now, most people who care about cannabis know that marijuana cultivation expert and publisher Ed Rosenthal, whose “Ask Ed” column graces every issue of Cannabis Culture, was found guilty last week of several marijuana crimes.
People have called and emailed me from around the world, worried about the man who brought light and humor to the science of growing pot.
Ed’s a self-described “Yippie” who has been one of the world’s most courageous and fearless marijuana advocates for the past 30 years. A Yippie is a member of cadre of anti-war, counterculture rebels from the 1960’s, the kind of folks who stuck flowers in the rifle barrels of riot police who wanted to shoot them during Vietnam War protests.
Rosenthal is one of few marijuana writers and advocates who has the guts to use his real name and face in his work. It may surprise you to know that most people who make money writing about marijuana for major pot magazines or in books are using fake names because they are afraid to put themselves on the line for pot.
Not so for Rosenthal, who outed himself three decades ago and never looked back. He’s been traveling the world writing about grow rooms ever since.
It’s surprising that the federal government hasn’t hammered Ed before. He spent many years helping people grow pot without any real harassment from the anti-plant agents. It was only when the war-loving administration of George W. Bush and DEA Chief Asa Hutchinson came to power, however, that somebody in DC decided to destroy Ed.
And since Ed was openly working to provide medpot to sick and dying people with the blessing of municipal authorities, it was easy for the federal bully DEA posse to bust him last February in a Bay Area series of raids.
Now, Ed Rosenthal, a 58-year-old father, husband and talk show host who has helped generations of pot growers in their quest for perfect cannabis agriculture, faces years of imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly violating federal marijuana law.
On a cold Friday morning, January 31st, the pot world held its collective breath as the jury in Rosenthal’s case- a jury that had been prevented from hearing the truth about California’s medpot law by the trial judge and prosecutor – deliberated the grow guru’s fate.
Many people worried that Rosenthal would be found guilty and immediately taken away to prison. Rosenthal himself wasn’t so worried. He sees himself as a freedom fighter, and a winner.
“I’m the ideal guy to take on the government’s marijuana laws,” Rosenthal told me that night before he was due back in federal court to find out whether he would be taken into custody.
According to one source close to the situation, “Ed has always been optimistic since day one.”
“He has been very confident and organized, knowing that he was in the right, and seeking to prove that the government is in the wrong in every aspect of this case,” another source affirmed. “He never thought of giving up, becoming an informant, or fleeing. That isn’t his way. He doesn’t run and hide, even though he is facing a virtual death sentence if life imprisonment is handed down.”
The trial has been reminiscent of a Kafka story. District Court Judge Charles Breyer muzzled Ed and his defense team. The jury was not allowed to hear the context of Rosenthal’s “crimes,” which included growing marijuana for sale and distribution. Breyer even went so far as to prohibit Rosenthal’s lawyer from questioning a key defense witness; he took over questioning himself.
US Attorney George Bevan tried to get Judge Breyer to rule that Ed, his family and his attorneys could not speak to the media. The judge refused Bevan’s request; local and international news coverage of the trial has been overwhelmingly in favor of Rosenthal.
Despite the judge’s determination not to let the jury hear about California’s medpot laws or to hear testimony that exonerated Ed, the defense managed to demolish the prosecution’s case in key areas, such as in the number of plants being grown and in the credibility of DEA agents. Of course, DEA agents are trained liars, so it doesn’t take much to demolish their credibility, does it?
“America is at a turning point in so many ways,” a source told us. “We are on the brink of starting World War Three, our federal government has become totalitarian, and a good man is facing the destruction of his life by people whose hearts are cold and evil. If you believe in any deity or power in the universe, face towards Oakland, California today, and pray for Ed and his family, and for America. Pray that the jury sees through this farce, and that it returns not guilty verdicts on all counts as a message to the monsters that they cannot continue to destroy innocent lives.”
Late Friday, January 31, the jurors found Ed guilty.
But after the trial was over, angry the jurors started speaking out.
On Tuesday, February 4th, after Breyer refused the prosecutor’s request to send Rosenthal to prison immediately, six jurors held a press conference. They accused the judge of lying to them, and said they had been railroaded into a guilty verdict.
Rosenthal says his attorneys are working on an appeal, based on irregularities that include possible jury tampering during the Grand Jury phase of the case that produced the indictment, and on Breyer’s surreal insistence that Californians not talk about the landmark medpot law they passed in 1996, a law Rosenthal was abiding by.
“The judge was openly hostile to the defense in a way that was unprecedented,” one source lamented. “The jury was being threatened by the judge. If they had come back with a jury nullification or not guilty, he might have had them jailed. There was no real trial. It was a set-up. It was an mob hit carried out by the feds.”
But the mob hit failed; Rosenthal is free and confident of remaining free.
“We need people to go to www.green-aid.com and make donations for our defense fund,” he said, while jubilant supporters whooped it up at his house. “Note that your donation is for our defense. We’re gonna spend a lot on this case, because this is the tipping point that will begin to unravel the war against marijuana. If you contribute to this, it isn’t just about helping Ed, it’s about helping yourself.”
Before Rosenthal went out for a celebratory dinner, he read me a New York Times editorial that accused the Bush administration of running a mean-spirited war against medpot and state’s rights.
“They say that the administration’s war is out of control, and that it ought to stop beating up on poor Eddie Rosenthal,” the grow guru quipped. “We’re in this to win.”
For in-depth coverage of the fascinating case of the grow guru who went to court, read issue 43 of Cannabis Culture magazine.
For the latest online updates and information about Ed Rosenthal, go to www.green-aid.com. To order Rosenthal’s amazing grow books and his newest book about making powerful hashish and other concentrated pot products, go to www.quicktrading.com.