Ganja Guru Back in Federal Court Again

The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 15, 2007; 10:32 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- A prosecutor said Tuesday that a self-proclaimed "guru of ganja" grew and distributed thousands of marijuana plants out of a warehouse to supply area pot clubs.

Ed Rosenthal returned to court for opening statements in the case that federal prosecutors are retrying, even though he faces no prison time if he is convicted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan did not mention that Rosenthal won't face jail time for the charges but stuck to a strict recitation of evidence about the growing operation.

Rosenthal, 62, was convicted in 2003 of running the Oakland operation, but the conviction was thrown out last year because a juror consulted a lawyer on how to decide the case.

Before the conviction was dismissed, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentenced him to just one day in prison, saying Rosenthal believed he was growing the plants for a city medical marijuana program.

Breyer urged prosecutors last month to drop the case. Rosenthal cannot be sentenced to prison again after an appeals court upheld the sentence that he had already served.

Prosecutors charged Rosenthal with money laundering and tax fraud along with the marijuana counts when they re-indicted him in October. But Breyer dismissed the non-marijuana charges last month.

A lawyer for Rosenthal argued on Tuesday that her client was a prominent scientist, author and marijuana reform advocate who became a political target over his support for medical marijuana.

"This is an attempt by the U.S. government ... to censor Mr. Rosenthal," defense attorney Shari Lynn Greenberger said.

Outside court, Rosenthal mocked prosecutors for trying him on the charges after he had already served his time.

"Sort of like Alice in Wonderland," Rosenthal said. "Off with his head, and then the trial."

Rosenthal's case has drawn attention as a symbolic battle between federal and state authorities over medical marijuana, which California voters legalized but which the federal government still considers contraband.

© 2007 The Associated Press