Will the Rosenthal Case Destroy Federal Medical Marijuana Enforcement?

The disappointing verdict in the Ed Rosenthal case may end up doing more to ignite California voters than a hung jury would have done. Now, the media is reporting that jurors were not told all the truth, a majority of jurors are saying they felt used and that if they had known the whole truth they would have voted acquittal. One juror has described this as the greatest mistake of her life -- one she will never forget.

Throughout US history unjust verdicts have led to dramatic change. Indeed, the birth of the United States was sparked by a verdict in favor of the crown in Paxton's case challenging the warrantless searches by the King's soldiers of colonial homes and businesses. John Adams, who later became a leader in the revolution and the second president of the United States, was a young court reporter and at the time of the verdict he wrote, "Then and there, the child Independence was borne."

For years the King's soldiers had been abusing the rights of the colonists, searching homes, unreasonably taxing them without any representation in Parliament, quartering soldiers in private homes - but there was no fervor for independence. A verdict in favor of the Crown on such a critical issue as arbitrary searches stoked the fire of independence a movement grew and a country was born.

For years, the federal government has abused the rights of citizens when it came to enforcing drug laws. The medical marijuana issue has highlighted how extreme the drug warriors are willing to be. They are willing to allow the seriously ill suffer - even die - because they use marijuana a medicine they deem illegal.

Ever since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 the federal government has done its best to thwart the law and undermine the democratic vote. Civil and criminal actions have been taken against individuals, doctors have been threatened, and state legislators have been ignored. But, for the most part the people have not rebelled - they have not gotten angry - they have not put pressure on their elected representatives, especially their US senators - to take action.

But now, the obvious kangaroo court that Mr. Rosenthal faced - a court proceeding where the grand jury indictment was manipulated, where jurors supportive of medical marijuana were weeded out, where critical evidence was kept from the jury and where jurors were told they could not vote their sense of justice - has sparked anger. The rules of federal marijuana trials allowed the federal government to describe someone serving as an agent of Oakland, in their effort to provide safe access to much-needed medicine for the seriously ill, as a major marijuana trafficker.

The results - laws designed for drug kingpins like Pablo Escobar - are being applied to Good Samaritans trying to provide medicine to the ill.

The attack on medical marijuana was initially an attack on democracy - undermining the peoples vote. Then, it became an attack on the seriously ill - threatening their doctors, their providers and denying them their medicine. Now, it is becoming an attack on the jury system - a bedrock of our justice system. Again, our second president, John Adams made the relevant point: "it is not only [the juror's] right but his duty to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the court." An independent jury is a check against unjust laws abusively enforced.

The initial reaction to the Rosenthal verdict has been strong. The media reacted to the obvious injustice in the case - even the newspaper of record, The New York Times, denounced the trial, noting the long history of federal abuse on medical marijuana it concluded: "the administration should stop tyrannizing doctors and sick people . . . ."

In addition, jurors are speaking out and the public is showing signs that it is aroused. During the Rosenthal trial a coalition of medical marijuana advocates started a billboard campaign that highlighted Ashley Epis, the 8-year-old daughter of Bryan Epis. Bryan is a marijuana martyr, railroaded in similar fashion as Rosenthal by a Sacramento federal judge. Bryan received a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence. The ad campaign made statewide, even national news.

Since June 6, shortly after the arrest of Rosenthal and others, there have been over fifty arrests of people protesting at federal buildings against medical marijuana enforcement by the feds. Activists around the US have protested at fifty federal building simultaneously on several occasions. And, thousands have signed a pledge of resistance saying they will take action to oppose medical marijuana raids. See www.MedicalMJ.org for more information about the reform reaction to the federal onslaught.

The embers of a medical marijuana wildfire are beginning to burn more brightly with the Rosenthal verdict. The feds may have won the first round of the Ed Rosenthal battle but it may lead to them losing the war.

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