Despite passionate pleas from defense attorney Robert Eye for consideration of the context of marijuana activist and author Ed Rosenthal’s involvement in carrying out the City of Oakland’s program for supplying medicinal marijuana, Federal Judge Charles Breyer ruled in favor of the prosecution’s motion to exclude all discussion of medical issues, the City of Oakland’s marijuana ordinance, California’s Compassionate Use Act legalizing medical marijuana (Prop 215), and the like.
Defense attorneys had hoped to present the jury with a picture of Rosenthal’s participation in the city program Oakland had implemented to enact Prop 215, including testimony from the Oakland City Attorney’s office concerning the legal opinion given to the City Council that federal statute provided immunity from federal prosecution for city officials participating in their medical marijuana program, how the city had expressly provided for deputizing Rosenthal and others as officers of the city so as to shield them from prosecution, and how Rosenthal’s actions were not just sanctioned and supervised by city officials intent on enforcing the law passed by California’s voters but that Council member Nate Miley, now an Alameda County Supervisor, had visited Rosenthal’s facility and blessed it.
But without direct evidence of a federal official actively doing or saying something to convey that immunity, the judge said he would not allow any such evidence – though he said that he might allow Rosenthal to testify before the jury as to his state of mind and the basis for his decisions, granting that it was reasonable for Rosenthal to have relied on the statements of city and state officials in forming his belief that he would not be prosecuted for helping medical marijuana patients become self-sufficient.
As another of Rosenthal’s attorneys, Bill Simpich, put it, this shut the door on the defense strategy without quite locking it. Simpich insists that the defense will be able to produce the missing key evidence showing direct federal action acknowledging the statutory immunity under 885d of the Controlled Substances Act that informed both the city of Oakland’s approach to distributing medical marijuana and Rosenthal’s decision to participate.
Judge Breyer also outlined the approach he intends to take in selecting a jury, to the detriment of the defense. Anyone with strong feelings about the legalization of marijuana, the legality of medical marijuana, or the appropriateness of California voters deciding issues on regulating for their own health and welfare will be excused from the jury, unless than can promise to put aside those feelings and follow the judge’s instructions on federal law and how they are to apply it.
With public opinion even more strongly in support of legal use of medical marijuana than at the time of 215’s passage in 1996, it’s no wonder that the judge would schedule four days for finding 14 northern California jurors willing to set aside their own beliefs and the law of their state in favor of imprisoning for a mandatory minimum of ten years someone daring to assist the sick and dying in growing a medicinal herb.
Jury selection begins at 8:30 am, Tuesday, January 14, in US District Court, with trial commencing on Tuesday, January 21, 2003.
* For interviews with Ed Rosenthal or his legal defense team, contact Teresa Schilling at 510-763-5616, or email her at [email protected].
* Cannabis Culture on Ed Rosenthal’s February 2002 arrest: www.cannabisculture.com/articles/2394.html
* Cannabis Culture‘s May 2002 Ed Rosenthal update: www.cannabisculture.com/articles/2439.html
* Ed Rosenthal’s books and information: www.ask-ed.net
* Who is Ed Rosenthal and why does the government want to put him in jail? www.green-aid.com/edrosenthal.htm