DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Fed's Prosecution of Ed Rosenthal, Part II

February 2-The Tacoma News Tribune reports: A former police officer who admitted shaking down drug dealers for dope and cash while on duty has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison.

"From the bottom of my heart, my apologies go to my family, the citizens and the Seattle Police Department," Steve Slaughter said in U.S. District Court on Friday, reading from a statement as his wife and other supporters looked on.

Slaughter, 27, pleaded guilty in November to charges of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, distribution of heroin, extortion and possession of a firearm.

February 4- The New York Times reports: Administration officials annoyed at California's support of the medical use of marijuana have found someone on whom to vent their frustration. Last week, at the urging of federal prosecutors, a judge convicted Ed Rosenthal of charges that carry a five-year minimum sentence. Mr. Rosenthal is a medical-marijuana advocate who grows the drug for use by the seriously ill. His harsh punishment shows that the misguided federal war on medical marijuana has now escalated out of control.

Mr. Rosenthal, who raised marijuana in an Oakland warehouse, was acting within state and local law. California's Proposition 215, which voters approved in a 1996 referendum, permits marijuana use by seriously ill people. In addition, Oakland has its own medical marijuana law, and Mr. Rosenthal was acting as an officer of the city. Nevertheless, the judge refused to allow the defense to mention any of this at his trial, since it is not a valid defense against federal drug charges.

The prosecution of Mr. Rosenthal is only the latest attempt by the federal government to frustrate the will of California voters. Washington has also tried to revoke the licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients. This strategy was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court last fall.

The Bush administration's war on medical marijuana has seemed not only misguided but mean-spirited. Doctors have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS, among other diseases. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The reasons the government gives for objecting to it do not outweigh the good it does. And given the lack of success of the war on drugs in recent years, there must be better places to direct law enforcement resources.

February 5- The New York Times reports: Afghanistan was the world's largest source of illicit opium in 2002, according to a United Nations report released on Monday, which estimates that opium revenues amounted to $1.2 billion in that country while the average daily wage was only $2 per day.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Office on Drugs and Crime, says this drug economy has been built up by two decades of internal conflict, and can only be dismantled by "the instruments of democracy, the rule of law and development."

The report calls for international support to the Afghan government in providing its farmers with viable alternatives to opium.

February 5- The San Francisco Examiner reports: All landscaper Charles Sackett really wanted to do was go home to Sebastopol and prune his roses.

But the soft-spoken foreman of the jury that convicted marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal last week said he couldn't sleep at night if he had.

So he joined four jurors Tuesday in front of a bank of cameras to apologize to Rosenthal, and to blast the federal judge and prosecutors Sackett said misled the jury by not allowing the defense to raise issues of state and local medical marijuana laws.

The federal government does not recognize state medical marijuana laws.

"This has been hard on us because we're all working people, leading quiet middle class lives," said Sackett. "But we wanted to make a statement."

"What really needs to happen here is he needs to have a new trial and he needs a jury that is allowed to hear all the evidence," said juror Marney Craig, reading a public statement agreed to by the other jurors.

"I'm really happy to be here today and would really like to thank the jury because both the jury and I were victims of a vicious persecution by an illegal government action," said Rosenthal.

February 5- The San Diego Union Tribune reports: Sick people with their doctor's approval can keep as much as 1 pound of marijuana to ease their symptoms under guidelines adopted last night by the San Diego City Council.

The guidelines were approved by a 6-3 vote over the objections of Mayor Dick Murphy and Police Chief David Bejarano after a seven-hour public hearing. More than 50 people testified on the recommendations from the Medical Cannabis Task Force.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at drugwarbriefs@yahoo.com.

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