A federal appeals court today overturned the marijuana-growing conviction of the self-proclaimed “Guru of Ganja” who has written books on how to grow pot and avoid getting caught.
The court cited jury misconduct in overturning Ed Rosenthal’s conviction, but it otherwise upheld federal powers to charge marijuana growers.
Rosenthal was convicted more than two years ago for cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants for a city of Oakland medical marijuana program. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentenced him to one day in prison, saying Rosenthal reasonably believed he was immune from prosecution because he was acting on behalf of city officials.
While the federal court decision upheld federal power to convict medical marijuana growers, it did open another avenue of approach in these cases: Jury nullification.
A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court, in overturning the verdict, said a juror had had inappropriate communication with an attorney.
“Juror A” had asked the attorney during trial whether she had to follow the law or could vote her conscience because she suspected Rosenthal was growing marijuana for medicinal uses. The attorney told her she must follow the judge’s instructions to follow federal law or she would get in “trouble.”
“We hold that here the communication was an improper influence upon Juror A’s decision to acquit or convict,” the appeals court wrote.
Perhaps it’s time to begin a major educational campaign in the medical marijuana states letting potential jurors know they can vote to acquit in those states.