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Calif. Jurors Convict, Then Decry Marijuana Verdict

Wed Feb 5, 3:09 PM ET
By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - First the jury convicted one of America's most outspoken marijuana advocates on drug charges. Now, just days later, jurors are praising him, expressing unusual regret about their verdict and saying vital evidence was withheld from them.

The San Francisco Federal Court jury found Ed Rosenthal, 58, a columnist who has written many books on marijuana, guilty on Friday on three counts of growing marijuana. The judge in the case refused to let jurors hear Rosenthal's defense: that he was growing the drug for medical use, something legal under state law while illegal under federal law.

"We obviously came up with the wrong verdict," jury member Marney Craig said in an interview on Wednesday. "Ed Rosenthal did not get a fair trial.

"Nothing we can do can make up for the fact that we are sending him to prison."

Craig, a property manager who is also 58 years old, is one of several jurors who complain that they were not told that Rosenthal was cultivating the weed as an "officer" for the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program.

Judge Charles Breyer did not allow defense lawyers to introduce testimony on that issue because growing marijuana for any reason is a federal offense.

He did not return calls on the case. One of the prosecutors in the case, Geoffrey Hansen, also declined to comment.

Experts say a change of heart by the jury does not have legal significance, although it could win public support for the defendant. "It is rare but not unheard of," said Peter Joy, director of trial and advocacy program at the Washington University in St Louis School of Law.

"It typically happens when there has been some information that has been withheld from them that they feel would have affected the decision that has been made," he said. "In and of itself, it does not have any legal significance."


Rosenthal, who is free on bail pending a sentencing hearing in June, praised the jury on Wednesday even though its original verdict could mean spending the rest of his life behind bars.

The judge denied a government motion on Tuesday to imprison Rosenthal immediately, saying there were important legal issues to consider in the appeal.

"I am really grateful to the jurors," Rosenthal told Reuters. "It was very brave of them to come out and express their views."

"It does show that I did not get a fair trial."

At the same time, he said their statements did not change the verdict. "Right now I am still convicted of three felonies," said Rosenthal, whose books include "Marijuana Grower's Handbook: The Indoor High Yield Guide" and "Marijuana Question? Ask Ed."

"What they did has no legal ramifications ... But by the end of the case I believe will be found innocent," he said, referring to his efforts to overturn the decision on appeal.

The Rosenthal case marks the latest battle over medical marijuana between the nation's most populous state and the federal government, which has recently been cracking down on California clubs providing the drug to ill patients.

Nine states, including California, allow medical use of marijuana under state law, but the federal government prohibits such use.