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`Ganja Guru' Wants Grand Jury Info

Josh Richman, The Oakland Tribune, 14th September 2006

Lawyers for Oakland "guru of ganja" Ed Rosenthal want more access to the grand jury that's probing him anew, even as they move rapidly toward his retrial on old charges.

Attorney Bill Simpich told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer today he'll file a motion regarding the Oakland-based federal grand jury by Monday. The government has until Oct. 2 to respond, and a hearing is set for Oct. 11.

Breyer set an Oct. 23 trial date but said he expects to postpone it. Rosenthal is still seeking a lawyer other than Simpich for his retrial, and co-defendant Richard Watts -- never tried the first time around because he'd been seriously hurt in a car accident -- also lacks counsel.

Meanwhile, two unnamed individuals who earlier had invoked their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify about Rosenthal to the grand jury have been told they need not return to the grand jury Thursday, Rosenthal said. It's unclear what this might mean, as federal prosecutors can't discuss grand jury proceedings.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars -- time he'd already served.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial. But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance.

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