SAN FRANCISCO – An author of how-to books on growing marijuana and avoiding the law was convicted Friday of marijuana cultivation and conspiracy charges.
The federal jury concluded that Ed Rosenthal, the self-described "Guru of Ganja," was growing more than 100 plants, conspiring to cultivate marijuana and maintaining a warehouse for a growing operation. Rosenthal, 58, faces a maximum of 85 years in prison when sentenced June 4.
Several people in the courtroom, including Rosenthal's wife and daughter, wept as the verdicts were read by a court clerk.
"This was not a trial. It was called a kangaroo trial," Rosenthal, who remains free on bail, said Friday as supporters chanted: "We love you Ed."
The verdicts were a victory in the federal government's battle against California's 1996 voter-approved medical marijuana law. Rosenthal's arrest last year was among a string of Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana suppliers in California.
Under strict orders from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, Rosenthal was never able to tell the jury that he was growing marijuana as "an officer" for the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program.
Oakland's program and others throughout California were authorized under Proposition 215. Eight other states also allow the sick and dying to smoke or grow marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
But federal authorities do not recognize those laws.
"There is no such thing as medical marijuana," said Richard Meyer, a DEA spokesman. "We're Americans first, Californians second."
Jury foreman Charles Sackett III said outside court that jurors were following federal law in finding Rosenthal guilty, but he hoped the verdict would be overturned.
"We had no legal wiggle room," Sackett said.
The government essentially portrayed Rosenthal as a major drug supplier. Because federal laws trump state laws, Breyer ruled that Rosenthal could not defend himself under the color of California's Proposition 215. Marijuana, under federal rules, has no recognized medical benefit.
Rosenthal said he's anything but a drug dealer, noting that the plants agents seized didn't have buds, the part of the plant normally smoked for a high. He planned to give out cuttings to seriously ill people.
A founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Rosenthal used to write the "Ask Ed" column for High Times magazine, and has researched and written nearly 20 books on marijuana.
Millions of copies have been sold, mostly in the United States, with titles such as The Growers Handbook, The Big Book of Buds, and Ask Ed: Marijuana Law. Don't Get Busted.