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Thursday, August 24, 2006

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New Medical Marijuana Grand Jury Convened in Connection with Ed Rosenthal

Oakland (August 24, 2006) -- Two individuals were subpoenaed yesterday to appear before a grand jury today in federal court. According to George Bevan, the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, this is a new grand jury ostensibly convened to investigate new information surrounding the prior indictment of Ed Rosenthal. Because of the secrecy that surrounds grand juries in general, the extent of the investigation and the government's aim is not completely clear.

Rosenthal was arrested in February 2002 after the DEA raided the Harm Reduction Center in San Francisco. Due to not being able to assert a medical defense, Rosenthal was convicted in January 2003. After outrage expressed by jurors and supporters alike, U.S. District Court Charles Breyer sentenced Rosenthal on June 3, 2003 to one day in prison. Rosenthal then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

In April 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed Rosenthal's convictions and remanded his case to federal district court. That action by the Ninth Circuit allowed the government to re-try Rosenthal. However, the government has a limited amount of time in which to do that, and it appears it has convened a grand jury to assist in the process. Since it is illegal to use the grand jury to investigate a case in which an indictment already exists, the government is claiming new charges will be involved. The government's investigation has also been expanded to include events that occurred between 1997 and 2002, whereas the original case was only interested in the period between 2001 and 2002.

The two people that appeared before the grand jury today refused to answer questions and invoked their Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination. Bevan then scheduled a hearing for Thursday, August 31 at 10am, in which it is expected that the two people will be granted immunity from prosecution within the context of the investigation. Bevan indicated that if those subpoenaed refuse to answer questions he may either charge them with civil contempt or seek indictments against them.

ASA considers this to be a very serious matter. Not only could this investigation result in more indictments, but Rosenthal stands to be retried and could serve 10 years if convicted. While it does seem ridiculous for the government to retry Rosenthal, after everything that has occurred, there are certainly very real consequences for committed people in this movement.

We will keep you updated as we learn more.

Kris Hermes
Legal Campaign Director

Kris Hermes
Legal Campaign Director
Americans for Safe Access
1322 Webster Street, Suite 402
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510-251-1856 x307
Fax: 510-251-2036

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Post Some historical background information regarding Mr. Rosenthal

Reefer Madness: Our current Prohibition.
by William F. Buckley,
Editor at Large
National Review Magazine online
June 10, 2003 --

The experience of Ed Rosenthal of Oakland, California, accelerates the day when heavy dilemmas in our legal system might just force a fresh look at our marijuana laws.
Presumably that will have to happen when state legislators, congressmen, and presidents are in recess, because the great enemy of sensible reform has been, of course, politicians high from righteousness.

What happened to Rosenthal was that he was convicted of marijuana cultivation and conspiracy, facing a conceivable sentence of l00 years in prison and a fine of $4.5 million.
The defense attorney had been forbidden by presiding Federal District Judge Charles Breyer to advise the jury of the perspectives of the defense.
The city of Oakland, instructed by a statewide proposition in 1996, had enacted an ordinance authorizing the growth of marijuana for medical use.

The judge took the flat position that local laws do not override federal laws; therefore the verdict could not be influenced by the legal contradiction, and therefore the jurors shouldn't be sidetracked by hearing about it.
The reasoning was identical to that of Judge George King in the case of computer guru and poet Peter McWilliams.
Judge King did not permit McWilliams to base his defense on the California initiative.
McWilliams died from AIDS, while awaiting sentencing, unrelieved by the marijuana that critically lessened his nausea.

Sentencing day for Rosenthal was at hand on June 5, and there was some commotion when the thought was expressed that the guilty finding could mean life in prison.
One juror had told the press that if she had known such might be the consequence of a guilty finding, she, and presumably other jurors, would not have voted as they did.
The day came, and Judge Breyer, perhaps with a wink of the eye, sentenced Rosenthal to one day in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Now Ed Rosenthal is not to be confused with a stray felon who took a toke at an outdoor movie with his date. Oh no.
Rosenthal is a full-time practitioner of resistance to marijuana legislation.
He has written several books, totaling in sales over 1 million.
In one of his most recent, The Closet Cultivator, he outlined how to build an indoor-marijuana-growing system impossible to detect through any method other than betrayal.
When arrested, he was linked to a nearby warehouse full of the drug, ostensibly consigned for medical use.
Rosenthal had been teasing the law along about as provocatively as one can do.
He had a monthly radio show, and a little while before his arrest his guest was San Francisco's district attorney, Terence Hallinan, who praised efforts by medical-marijuana cooperatives and permitted himself the obiter dictum on existing laws that "the government anti-drug policy is a big lie that's supported by a thousand other lies."

Eric Schlosser of The Atlantic Monthly has published a deeply informative and readable book called Reefer Madness. He wonderfully illustrates the complexity, contradiction, and futility of extant drug laws. Although Governor Clinton of Arkansas introduced legislation to lessen state penalties for marijuana, he went on, as president, to treat marijuana as if it were as innocent as adultery. He doubled the arrests for marijuana infractions. When Nixon declared his tough-drug policies, athwart the recommendation of his own commission which had advocated licensing marijuana for individual home consumption, arrests climbed to over 100,000 per year. In 2001, 720,000 Americans were arrested for pot. About 20,000 inmates in the federal system have been incarcerated primarily for a marijuana offense. Those in state systems would equal that figure, and exceed it.

The problem is more than the laws' contradictions. The Uniform Sentencing Act has given prosecutors, not judges, almost plenary powers over defendants, power ruthlessly used to extract information and to encourage duplicity and to make property rights insecure.
Judicial process is convoluted to the point where a judge can reasonably exercise a choice between 100 years in prison and one day in prison.

The marijuana laws can most directly be compared to the Prohibition-era laws, which didn't work, undermined the law, and were capriciously enforced. Pot consumption varies, but not in correlation with the laws' throw-weight.
If you buy an ounce in New York State, that could bring you a fine of $l00; in Louisiana, a jail sentence of 20 years.
Ed Rosenthal is quoted by author Schlosser. Will the laws in America dissipate, as they have done in Europe? He doesn't think so.
"They've made the laws so brittle, one day they're going to break."
The whole edifice of prohibition would come down, he predicted, "like the fall of the Berlin Wall." Schlosser nicely summarized Rosenthal's prediction.

"A group of powerful, white, middle-aged men will meet in a room to discuss what to do about marijuana.
And they will reach the only logical conclusion: tax it."

Like booze, some will then go on to abuse it, though with consequences less dire.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
-Nelson Mandela-

I talked to people close to the fire and asked what I could do. The advice was as follows:

1. Donate money to ASA NOW! They were the first to call with legal help.

2.Donate money to Green Aid, the charity Ed started.

3. Go to the "Wonders of Cannabis" exhibit. It will be extra special this year in light of current events. Here's last years website-the phone numbers are the same.
People, if we all skipped buying that next gram of medicine at $20. and gave it to the above charities, the war would be a lot closer to being won. Please donate something, anything.


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