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Appeal Hearing For Medical Marijuana Case US v. Rosenthal

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
Event Type:
Court Date
Jane Klein
Location Details:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 95 7th St. (@ Mission St.), Courtroom #3, San Francisco, CA


WHO: Noted author and medical marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal, represented by attorney Michael Clough

WHAT: Oral arguments on Rosenthal's appeal of his conviction at retrial on federal marijuana charges

WHEN: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - 9:00am

WHERE: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 95 7th St. (@ Mission St.), Courtroom #3, San Francisco, CA


Ninth Circuit to consider if famed grower was denied rights during retrial

The high-profile case of author and medical marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal returns to the courtroom on Wednesday, January 14. Oral arguments will be heard by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether Rosenthal was denied his rights during a retrial in May 2007 on cultivation charges. Rosenthal maintains that his conviction should be thrown out because he was not allowed to present a complete defense to the jury.

U.S. v. Rosenthal, a case that epitomizes the clash between state and federal marijuana laws, has taken many turns in its six-year history.

In 2003, Rosenthal was convicted for growing and distributing marijuana, even though he was deputized by Oakland city officials to do so as part of the city’s efforts to promote safe distribution of marijuana to patients under California's Prop 215. After the Ninth Circuit overturned his conviction in 2006 due to juror misconduct, Rosenthal was retried and convicted in a second trial described by Rosenthal’s appellate brief as “little more than a long, drawn out directed verdict.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will now hear Rosenthal’s second appeal, which argues that defendants have a fundamental right to present a complete and effective defense in cases where there is a conflict between state and federal law. To date, 13 states having enacted medical marijuana laws, despite the federal prohibition on all uses of the drug.

"If his conviction is allowed to stand, overzealous federal prosecutors may criminalize the efforts of local officials to implement controversial state and local initiatives," said Rosenthal’s lead attorney, Michael Clough.

Among the specific questions that Clough will ask the appellate panel to decide are:

(1) Whether the jury should have been allowed to hear evidence that Rosenthal acted on a good faith belief that he had been deputized by the City of Oakland.

(2) Whether, given the complex and unsettled nature of constitutional precedents governing differences in federal and state laws with regard to issues such as medical marijuana, Rosenthal should have been allowed to present a defense based on mistake of law.

(3) Whether Rosenthal should have been allowed to offer testimony by Oakland city officials to refute the allegation that he was involved in an unlawful conspiracy.

(4) Whether the trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, denied Rosenthal’s constitutional right to testify in his own defense when he ruled that Rosenthal could testify but would not be allowed to present witnesses to corroborate his claim that he believed he was lawfully acting to further regulations enacted by the Oakland city council to ensure the safe distribution of marijuana to patients.

The Rosenthal case began in February 2002, when he was arrested along with several others in federal raids timed to coincide with a speech in San Francisco by DEA Director Asa Hutchinson. After a trial that generated major media coverage, Rosenthal was convicted a year later. The majority of the jurors, however, recanted the next day, setting off another flurry of press coverage, including segments on Dateline, NPR and CNN.

In a dramatic departure from federal sentencing guidelines, Judge Breyer sentenced Rosenthal on June 4, 2003 to a one-day sentence, with credit for time served. Rosenthal nonetheless appealed on principle, and was granted a new trial by the Ninth Circuit in April 2006. "No one should be made a felon for doing humanitarian work on behalf of their community," Rosenthal said "The Federal Government continues to treat patients like criminals."

Added to the calendar on Thu, Jan 8, 2009 11:12AM
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