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April 14, 2007

A Tale of Two Prosecutions

The farcical federal prosecution of Ed Rosenthal, 62, which began with his February 2002 arrest for growing medical marijuana, just hit a new low with an announcement that the Department of ‘Justice’ plans to retry him on the same charges despite rulings from both the trial judge and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that another guity verdict could not add time to his original sentence of the one day he spent in in custody following his arrest.

In sharp contrast is the federal prosecution of another 60 year old medical marijuana grower, Dustin Costa of Merced, who was arrested by his local sheriff two years after Rosenthal in February 2004 and charged under California law with growing an equivalent number of plants. The feds didn’t get into the act until after the execrable Raich decision of June 2005. Two months later, on August 5,  Costa's bail was summarily canceled by a tranfer of jurisdiction for his case from state to federal authorities that has yet to be explained by either side. He then remained in federal custody at a county jail until tried and convicted in Federal Court in Fresno. In February, he was sentenced to thirteen years, which he just began serving last week after a harrowing series of secret tranfers to a prison in Texas. With credit for time already served, his projected release date is September 5, 2018.

Aside from the glaring injustice of one man spending a day in jail for the same offense that will cost another thirteen years of his life, there is the inexplicable failure of the medical marijuana community to pay more than passing attention to Costa, while rallying massive support for Rosenthal. Beyond that, there is the failure of the press in California to comment on the huge discrepancies between two federal prosecutions conducted a few hundred miles apart in their home state.

Drug policy activists have long complained, to no avail, of a 'drug war exception' to the Bill of Rights. The ludicrous behavior of our federal bureacracy in these cases, while perhaps a new low, was not that surprising. What is more distressing is that the 'exception,' which seems (still) tacitly endorsed by the media, may have been accepted by the reform movement as well

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at April 14, 2007 03:36 PM