Cannabis Culture is the world’s best marijuana magazine in part because the solar system’s most experienced cultivation expert and pot book author, Ed Rosenthal, provides exclusive ganja growing information in every issue of the legendary magazine.
Unlike other cultivation pundits who write for other publications, Rosenthal is a prominent legalization advocate who uses his real name (all the other grow writers use fake names) and has defiantly taken on the US federal government by battling against felony marijuana charges that would have sent most defendants fleeing the country.
Rosenthal was an official consultant for the city of Oakland on February 12, 2002, when then-DEA head Asa Hutchinson and a posse of federal agents roared into the San Francisco area to raid medical marijuana clubs and grow rooms, seizing a total of 3163 pot plants.
Some of those plants came from Rosenthal’s grow room in Oakland. Oakland’s city government had officialized its relationship with Rosenthal and his medical grow room so he could be immunized from prosecution using the same protections that allow an undercover police officer to break the law while doing his job and not be prosecuted for it. The city was attempting to comply with California’s 1996 medical marijuana law, which stipulates that government ensure a safe supply of marijuana to patients.
Barbara Parker, Oakland’s city attorney, said the city wrote a medpot ordinance intended to give immunity to people carrying out the ordinance’s provisions. Parker said the immunity was the same kind afforded to police officers and other public officials who enforce laws related to controlled substances.
“The federal government didn’t come after the city and say this ordinance can’t stand,” Parker said. “They didn’t come after the state and say this can’t stand. Instead, they are going after [Ed Rosenthal].”
“I am just speechless,” said Nate Miley, an Alameda County supervisor who helped write the Oakland ordinance when he was an Oakland councilman. “What we were attempting to do was put together as tight a medical practice as possible. Ed was just part of that whole effort.”
Rosenthal said he’d been assured the city’s backing would protect him from prosecution; those assurances became moot on that fateful February morning when DEA raid agents woke Rosenthal up at 6 am.
Sleepy and not thinking clearly, he opened the door naked, later explaining with amusement that his full frontal nudity gave agents good reason not to pull their guns on him.
“They could see everything,” he quips, “and they knew I had no firearms.”
Things weren’t so amusing after that. Rosenthal was taken to jail, charged with several federal felonies that carried mandatory minimums and potential maximum sentences that could have landed him in federal prison for the rest of his life, and even in the hereafter.
Ed versus Fed
The case against Rosenthal was made more severe by his lifetime of radical Yippieish political activism, his long-time former association with High Times, his current work for Cannabis Culture, and his authorship of dozens of books telling people how to grow and use an illegal plant.
There was another problem- unlike many defendants caught in similar circumstances, Rosenthal refused to consider the standard range of options available to similar defendants- options like narking, plea bargaining, lying, apologizing, or fleeing to Canada. He rejected all of those options, telling friends and journalists he was going to defend his right to grow medical marijuana, regardless of the consequences. Rosenthal hung tough, even when he found out that a prominent San Francisco marijuana club insider was actually a nark who had ratted him out.
Most people who knew Ed told him to quickly and quietly move to Canada. He refused.
His steadfastness impressed lots of people, including California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who sent a letter to DEA chief Hutchinson defending California’s medpot law.
“While I am acutely aware that federal law conflicts with California’s on this subject and needs to be reconciled, surely an administration with a proper sense of balance, proportion and respect for states’ rights could and should reconsider the D.E.A.’s policy and redirect its resources,” Lockyer wrote.
Hutchinson’s reply was a sneering dismissal of California voters and medical marijuana. Hutchinson is no longer head of DEA. He now has an even more powerful position- as assistant head of Homeland Security.
In January, 2003, Rosenthal’s trial began. The situation was surreal, with Rosenthal-friendly protesters doing street theatre, and the judge and prosecutor doing bizarre legal rulings and prejudicial actions that made it impossible for Rosenthal to get a fair trial.
The federal prosecutor tried to prevent Rosenthal, a member of the media, from talking to the media.
Presiding Judge Charles Breyer, brother of US Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer (one of the 6-3 majority who recently ruled against Raich), refused to allow Rosenthal’s attorneys mention his Oakland immunity, California’s medical marijuana law, or medical cannabis.
Because Rosenthal would not deny he was growing pot plants for medical use, and because the judge refused to let him mention that he was doing it legally in accord with the state’s medpot law and the city of Oakland’s approval, Rosenthal was left with zero defense.
He later proved the prosecutor lied to the grand jury that issued his indictment, that jurors had been tampered with, and that many other violations of due process were conducted by police and prosecutor.
It didn’t matter to Judge Breyer. Rosenthal was convicted of three felonies on January 31, 2003.
A few hours later, when jurors found out from friends and the media that the trial judge had prevented them from knowing that Rosenthal was growing legal medical marijuana with municipal approval, they publicly staged a jurors’ rebellion.
Juror Pam Klarkowski, a registered nurse, said the trial judge prevented her and other jurors from making a fully-informed decision.
Before the jury was sent off to deliberate a verdict, Judge Breyer had told them: “You are not to consider the purpose for which the marijuana was grown. You cannot substitute your sense of justice, whatever that is, for your duty to follow the law.”
Klarkowski agreed it was her duty to follow the law, but said the judge and prosecutors did not follow the law.
“I do apologize to Ed and his family and to all the patients for whom this will make their lives very difficult,” said Klarkowski. “I feel as if we were ramrodded in a way, and not given all the evidence involved to make an educated decision.”
Another juror, Marney Craig, described the guilty verdict as “the most horrible mistake I have ever made.”
“I feel like we were sheep, we were manipulated,” she complained.
Jury foreman Charles Sackett told a news conference that a majority of the jury felt that they had delivered an unjust verdict.
Speaking directly to Rosenthal, Sackett said he wondered “why the defense portion of your case was so brief as to almost be non-existent.”
“We as a jury were unaware that your attorney was being denied the opportunity to present most of your evidence and outside testimony,” Sackett said.
With ongoing protests and media coverage that favored Rosenthal, Judge Breyer indicated he would deny Rosenthal’s request for a new trial, but would investigate the possibility of defying the mandatory minimum sentencing schemes that would have sent the almost-60-year-old pot grower to prison for at least five years and cost him tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
On June 4, 2003, Rosenthal was sentenced to only one day in jail, which he had already served, and $1000 in fines. The grow guru’s family and supporters staged a massive celebration of the reprieve, but Rosenthal wasn’t in the mood to thank the judge. He was so angry during a post-sentencing news conference that his lovely, loyal wife Jane had to restrain him as he condemned the entire process, from arrest to conviction, as a betrayal of the constitution and an anti-medpot witch hunt.
When he was asked if he ought to thank Breyer for not sentencing him to a longer jail sentence, Rosenthal contemptuously pointed out that Breyer’s legal rulings had gutted his defense strategy and excluded jurors who would have been more favorable to medical cannabis.
“He made sure I ended up convicted of three felonies,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think he’s done me any favors.”
The federal prosecutor appealed Rosenthal’s one day sentence, while Rosenthal’s defense team appealed the conviction itself and asked for an overturn.
Those appeals were put on hold in part because of favorable federal court rulings in the 9th Circuit, including the ruling that resulted in the Gonzales versus Raich case that was decided in favor of federal marijuana prohibition earlier this week.
The Raich loss means Rosenthal will have a harder time getting rid of his three felonies, says his appeals attorney Bob Eye.
“The Raich opinion is going to make getting the convictions reversed more difficult,” Eye explained, adding that he feels bad for Rosenthal, and for Angel Raich and Diane Monson, the two women who lost in the US Supreme Court this week. “My thoughts are with them. I am very concerned their health situations will deteriorate. I’m also concerned the federal government will take this signal to have a more aggressive attitude toward enforcement against medical marijuana.”
A few members of Congress have sought to protect medical patients, and growers like Rosenthal, but their efforts are unlikely to overcome the the power of Democrat and Republican drug warriors in the federal legislature.
Even members of Congress from the medpot-friendly Oakland-San Francisco area say they will oppose a financial amendment being put forward by Congressmembers Maurice Hinchey and Dana Rohrabacher, which would forbid the Justice Department and DEA from using taxpayers’ money to raid, arrest or prosecute patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws.
Angel Raich is on her way to Washington, DC to lobby for the amendment, which was unsuccessful when it was up for vote in previous congressional sessions.
The amendment needed 218 votes to pass the House of Representatives but got 152 votes in 2003 and 148 in 2004.
Some California lawmakers need to get with the program, especially Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza and Republican Richard Pombo, who both opposed the amendment in the past.
“Like most Americans and two-thirds of Congress, Congressman Cardoza does not believe the use of marijuana for ‘medicinal’ purposes should be legal. He has no plans to change his position on this issue,” Cardoza spokesman Bret Ladine said before last year’s vote. “The amendment is an attempt to circumvent existing federal law.”
Medpot advocates note that Ladine made a factual error when he said that “most” Americans oppose medical marijuana. The actual polling numbers show that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor legalizing medical marijuana.
Barney Frank’s “States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act” took on more significance after the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling. This law, which Frank has been trying to pass since 1995, would put marijuana into a softer schedule within the Controlled Substances Act and regulate its production, possession and use as medicine.
In the 2004 Congress, Frank couldn’t even get a hearing in the initial House subcommittee that would have had to approve the bill, and this year he has lost eight co-sponsors who were on board last year.
Santa Cruz Congressman Sam Farr, motivated by what happened to Rosenthal, introduced a bill in the 2004 Congressional session that would allow defendants in federal marijuana trials to use medical marijuana in their defense. His “Truth in Trials Act” died without a hearing.
Good man and Goodman
Undaunted, Rosenthal continues to fight.
The day after the Raich decision was announced, Rosenthal appeared on the world’s most intelligent and courageous television journalism program, Democracy Now!, hosted by valiant progressive journalist Amy Goodman.
Goodman is as much of a hero in the journalistic world as Rosenthal is in the marijuana world.
Viewers who tune in to her hour-long weekday news program, available via the Internet, cable, satellite and other channels, quickly realize that the “news” they are being fed by local television stations and corporate networks is not news at all, but actually a scripted pro-corporate, pro-war, pro-empire propaganda campaign designed to mislead the populace.
Goodman does what real journalists used to do- she instinctively doubts everything said by government officials, does intensive investigations to determine facts, asks hard questions, interviews leading scholars and experts who are banned from mainstream media. She also had the guts to go to the most dangerous places in the world. And she does it all with a sweet neutral tone, an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile, stylish wardrobe choices, and a challenging work ethic that means she exhausts her dedicated production team with her boundless energy and zeal for breaking the latest news as soon as possible.
Broadcasting from her New York City studio on 9/11/01, near to where buildings were exploding and thousands were dying, Goodman stayed on the air telling the truth even though she had recently been censored and shunned during a hostile takeover of the progressive Pacifica alternative news network that she had been broadcasting on, and even though people around her feared they too would be blown up.
Goodman is a 48-year-old who graduated from Harvard in 1984 with a degree in anthropology. She discovered New York progressive radio station WBAI soon thereafter and began doing journalism for the station. By the mid-1990’s, she was already known as a fearless, skilled interviewer and producer who refused to bow down to powerful elites.
Democracy Now first aired in 1996, and is now recognized as the most innovative and truthful journalism program available on international electronic media.
During the 2000 election campaign, Goodman got lucky when President Bill Clinton suddenly called in to be on her show. Clinton expected to talk to her for a few minutes, but Amy kept him on the phone long enough to ask the kind of questions that mainstream journalists don’t have the guts to ask presidents anymore. The audio archive of that interview is a must-hear clip, and is available on Goodman’s website at www.democracynow.org, as is her June 7, 2005 interview with Rosenthal.
It’s amazing to hear a former president of the United States asked hard questions about war, globalization, the death penalty, and Iraq. Ironically, listening to the interview now, it’s obvious how much more intelligent Clinton sounded, even though being asked hard questions, than Bush has ever sounded under any circumstances.
But Goodman never apologizes to Clinton for asking hard questions, and that’s one reason why she will probably never be able to similarly interrogate George W. Bush or Dickie Cheney ? she isn’t the kind of woman who gets on her knees for corrupt men of power.
Goodman is no stranger to hostile territory. She was on the ground in East Timor in 1991, witnessing Indonesian soldiers shooting human rights activists. The shooting is now considered a war crime that murdered at least 270 East Timorese.
The incident made Goodman ever more determined to use her life and journalism as a tool for activism and light.
“To be there as these soldiers opened fire on innocent people and gunned them down, and ultimately understanding there was nothing we could do to stop it, that it was only getting word out that could make a difference,” she told an interviewer, summing up her journalistic motivations.
Being on the scene of dangerous news has become a tradition for Goodman and her network of valiant correspondents, including independent journalist Dahr Jamail who reported live from Iraq after the US invasion in 2003, telling the truth about US war crimes, genocides and civilian massacres while CNN, Fox, MSNBC and other media were chirping out pro-Bush, pro-war tripe that trivialized the death of innocent Iraqi women and children.
Democracy Now! regularly features guests like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and scholars, scientists, whistleblowers, war resisters, newsmakers, and human rights activists who are banned from mainstream media.
In 2004, Goodman personally accompanied Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife Mildred as they returned to the Caribbean from exile in Africa after a US-backed coup had ousted the leader. The Bush administration had tried to prevent Aristide from returning, but Amy and Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters were among the people accompanying Aristide as human shields to document the return and to make it harder for the Bush administration to interfere with Aristide’s travel.
When Amy became the only nationally-respected authentic journalist who broadcast just around the corner from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and in the days that followed, she catapulted to a new level of acceptance and visibility, and today is seen as one of few credible news sources in a world of corporate information control.
Goodman’s book, The Exception to the Rulers, and her jet-lagging schedule of touring, speaking, fund-raising for progressive causes, and muckraking across the US and the rest of the world have made her the most popular member of the alternative media.
Conservatives, jealous and backstabbing journalistic colleagues, and corporate media whores, often attack Goodman, claiming she is a partisan who takes her job too seriously.
Goodman’s rivals, who are often also opponents of medical marijuana, are ingenious in finding ways to criticize.
As soon as Ed Rosenthal appeared on Democracy Now!, and even though Goodman rarely covers marijuana issues, web blogger Stan Moore went on the attack: (usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/15582).
He said that “if medical marijuana advocates wanted legitimacy, they would not self-medicate on television. They would not create ten different justifications for taking one drug for one illness.”
“When AIDS victims were campaigning for availability of various drugs for treatment of their malady, you did not see them injecting themselves or taking oral medications on television and appearing to savor the medication,” Moore wrote. “Medical marijuana advocates lighting up joints and smoking them on television appear to look more like junkies than patients. And often they appear to be organizationally connected more closely to advocates for totally unrestricted use of marijuana than advocates for cure of the basic illnesses for which they claim to be using marijuana. It almost appears at times as if these ‘patients’ would be using marijuana with or without the presence of illness and that they may be in some perverse way grateful to have the illness so they can justify their marijuana use. No wonder law enforcement takes such a hard line on medical marijuana patients! Patients who appear proud of their ability to self medicate with a drug that is otherwise illegal, yet part of a popular culture; appear to be disingenuous about the real reasons for taking the drug. And certainly there is ample evidence to believe that a significant number and percentage of ‘patients’ using medical marijuana are contriving illnesses to justify access to this ‘medicine.'”
Commenting on Rosenthal’s appearance on Democracy Now!, Moore said, “It appears that the goal of some medicinal marijuana advocates is to create a ‘universal medicine’ in which marijuana could be variously used to treat all forms of pain, all forms of stress, addiction to other drugs, and any other form of discomfort or ‘illness’ that can be conceived. Marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal said on a radio interview with Amy Goodman today that he could envision ‘millions’ of Americans benefiting from medical marijuana. I am sure that many joints were lit to celebrate that medical viewpoint?There is something extremely unconvincing about the attitudes and demeanors of most medical marijuana patients, and because of this, these people have cost themselves a great deal of legitimacy and sympathy. These advocates are their own worst enemies.”
Moore’s opinion aside, people like Rosenthal and Goodman are enemies of warmongers, and are allies in the presentation of compelling alternative viewpoints to an American population that more resembles a docile herd of brainwashed sheep than a fully-informed electorate ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make true democracy and human rights the cornerstone of their country’s existence.