Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Up In Smoke

Ed Rosenthal, the subject of yesterday’s post about the California medical marijuana case, has been found guilty of federal drug 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.

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.

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.

Now, in yesterday’s post I wrote, “Say what you want about the drug war, but this is nothing but blatantly unconstitutional federal bullying, and a direct assault on state sovereignity.” While I still stand by that statement I think that the guilty conviction was the correct verdict.

How do I reconcile two ostensibly opposite views?  It’s easy.  While I believe that the federal government should leave the issue of drugs to the states, what this man did was still a violation of federal law. If we are to be a nation of laws then we have to respect the rule of law, whether or not we agree with it.  If we accept the selective application of laws then we lose a vital aspect of our society, which is the right to know in advance what the laws are so that a citizen can comply with those laws.  If the enforcement of laws is done solely at the whim of whoever is in power then citizens lose this vital right.

Ed Rosenthal is one of the founders of NORML.  He knew damn well the risks of what he was doing, yet he chose to do it anyway.  I admire him for his dedication to his cause.  But people who are willing to take this sort of stand have got to be prepared to accept the consequences of doing so.  Jack Kervorkian is sitting in prison right now.  Nelson Mandela spent a large chunk of his life imprisoned for his beliefs (his recent asinine comments notwithstanding.)

The answer to bad laws is to change them, not to simply neglect to enforce them.

Posted by Lee on 01/31/03 at 08:52 PM in Cullyforneah • Permalink

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