Q & A with ‘The Ganja Guru’ Ed Rosenthal
The legalization of medical marijuana is an issue that is gaining momentum on a grass roots and national level. I turned into a supporter after watching what the radiation and other drugs did to my grandfather Fred Luffman as he battled both cancer and the ‘medication’ he was given. The ‘medication’ along with the cancer robbed him of his ability to sleep and of his appetite. If you take sleep and food away from the human body it really cannot even fight more mundane illnesses such as the flu with much vigor, not to mention a disease as powerful and ravaging as cancer. Fred, in an effort to gain some appetite, sleep, and ward off the pain of his disease turned to medical marijuana. If John Ashcroft and President Bush had their way my grandfather would have spent his dying months in a penitentiary instead of with his family. While real life stories like these are compelling, every movement needs someone to stick their neck out. They need a person who is willing to call upon the powers that be and tell them to look at the issue from another perspective. That person, in the case of medical marijuana, is Ed Rosenthal.
by Toff Luffman
July 31, 2003
Known affectionately as ‘The Ganja Guru’, Ed has raised awareness, campaigned, and ultimately been thrown in jail for medical marijuana. He is currently the closest thing to a spokesman and martyr for medical marijuana. In his current trial the latest verdict handed down only gave him one day in jail with time served. While many other people would have packed up the picket signs and headed home relieved from the light sentence, Ed did not. He appealed. It’s about the issue. Why should he be sentenced to anything when all he is doing is handing out medicine to people in need? When asked about the trial he said he sees it from a political perspective and does not view himself as a victim. Ed was gracious enough to sit down and allow me to both listen and learn from his unique perspective on the cutting edge of American policy concerning medical marijuana.
TOM: Since your state allows medical marijuana the federal government sent
their forces to shut it down. What do you think this says about state sovereignty,
federal power, and the separation of the two?
ED: John Ashcroft has a right to try to close the distribution based on his
interpretation of federal law and commerce. However, states usually are able to
regulate intrastate commerce. His interpretation is correct when looking at it from an interstate commerce perspective. My medical marijuana was grown in
California, prescribed by Californian doctors, and ultimately used only by
Californians. There is no interstate commerce taking place. This means my case
is not breaking the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution and therefore
not applicable to the laws set up to regulate interstate commerce. Also, I have
statutory immunity under 885d of the Controlled Substances Act because I was
performing duties for the state of California.
TOM: Why do you think the John Ashcroft seems to be so much against medical
ED: I believe Ashcroft has an agenda based on a fanatical interpretation of beliefs.
TOM: About the trial itself, do you believe the juror’s were misled into a guilty
verdict? If so, why?
ED: Eight out of twelve of the jurors said they made decision based on partial
evidence. One said he was conned. Another said it was ‘the worse decision he
had ever made.’ Another said he felt he was duped. (more quotes at the
TOM: The sentence handed down gave you one day with time served.
ED: The funny thing about that is I have served 2 days!
TOM: So where does the trail go from here?
ED: The next step is appeals court. Both sides are appealing. After that, I
assume who ever loses will appeal to the Supreme Court but they only take about
3% of cases so who knows if it will go that far or not.
TOM: The critics would say that anyone who sells marijuana either for medical or
recreational purposes is still a drug dealer and should go to prison. How would
you answer those who see you as a drug dealer?
ED: I do not understand why people would take medicine away from people. I’m just supplying a form of medicine. One CNN/time poll stated 70-80% of Americans would support medical marijuana so we have the tail wagging the dog.
You have to consider 5-8% of the money spent on the war on drugs is spent specifically aimed at marijuana. Let’s look at other substances. Between alcohol, tobacco, and wrongly prescribed drugs 50,000-100,000 people die a year. Marijuana relative to other LEGAL things is just not as dangerous. Food allergies kill a lot of people. Thousands die by peanut allergies alone. No one dies from marijuana.
There also is an issue about how marijuana is reported. Let’s say you were walking down the street and from nowhere something falls off the roof and hits you. When you go to the emergency room you will be asked if you have used marijuana in last 72 hours. Let’s say you used it 70 hours ago. It has long since worn off and was not a cause in anyway of the accident. But you are now on emergency list of marijuana statistics. This makes it hard to look at government statistics as accurate.
I looked at voluntary treatment centers for marijuana users. At a heroin clinic many people turn themselves in voluntarily because they are unable to stop the bad effects of the drug and unable to stop on their own. So you can gauge the dangerous level of a drug by people turning themselves in for voluntary treatment.
The vast majority of people who use marijuana, use it then stop when they want
to. There are no recorded deaths from marijuana.
TOM: One of the criticisms of marijuana in general is that it is a ‘step up’ drug
what would you say to that?
ED: Anthropologists and psychologists each say there is no indication of that. A
contributing factor to that line of thinking is all drugs that are currently prohibited are placed into the same category. The Dutch found people who sold marijuana also sold hard drugs. But then by legalizing the coffee shops (that sell marijuana) it cut down on the use and abuse of hard drugs. Now they have one of the lowest drug use rates in Europe.
TOM: Do you fear prescribing some marijuana to a patient would put them in
direct harm to ‘step up’ to cocaine, heroin, and other ‘harder’ drugs?
ED: There really is no correlation. Usually the opposite happens. I put some
patients on marijuana that our current system has on opiates. These people are
unable to function because of the nature of opiates so marijuana actually is a step
down for many. Not a step up.
TOM: How do you feel Canada’s progressive stance will impact American
ED: It’s going to put the two into conflict, especially at the border. Will the
government eventually treat the northern border like the Mexican one? Will they
fortify the northern border with troops? (Costing more money)
TOM: What is your a vision for an overall effective drug policy that would both
keep children from harm but end the millions of dollars going to waste in the war
ED: We spend 15 billion dollars per year fighting marijuana. Only marijuana. We have 20,000 people in prisons because of marijuana. Isn’t that amazing? I
would institute treatment on demand as well as harm control methods like many
European counties currently have. These steps would both save money and keep children and adults from harm.
TOM: What is the motivation for the government to continue to lock up people
for possession of small amounts of marijuana?
ED: It’s the tail wagging the dog. Who is going to get that 15 billion in funding?
The criminal justice system does not want that money to go elsewhere. That’s
what they are fighting for. Jobs would be lost but we could always use the money
elsewhere and it would be better for society but they don’t care about the big
picture. They are their own special interest group.
TOM: What do think about the anti-marijuana ads on television?
ED: First there was that beer commercial. It had a good-looking man and woman
and their daughter smoked a joint and she got pregnant.
TOM- Yes, it was like “Reefer Madness”.
ED: Yes. They are all really ridiculous. I think spin is a short run phenomenon.
The truth always trumps spin so the truth will come out and is out if you look at
I have a book out called “Jeffery’s Journal”. Jeffery had behavioral problems in
school and none of the normal ways would help. Jeffery’s mother is a Christian
and did not support Prop 215. But she allowed him to take some medical
marijuana and the kid straightened out.
TOM: You are an author, can we expect a book on your current trial?
ED: Yes, I do plan on writing a book about this trial.
TOM: Most Americans do not know that 8 states now allow medical marijuana.
That’s 16% of the states. Why does there seem to be an overall lack of
information like this on a national level?
ED: If you look at it from that perspective it only seems like 16% of the
country is for medical marijuana but when you look at the polls it is a much,
much higher figure. Unfortunately, Clinton didn’t see it as an issue but Bush
does, he just sees it from the wrong perspective.
TOM: Do you think the alcohol and tobacco companies could be behind some of
the resistance towards the push to legalize medical marijuana and marijuana in
ED: Not at this point. They would not be impacted like the criminal justice
special interests would be. Maybe later in the fight alcohol interests would jump
in and fund the anti-marijuana side.
TOM: I know you are raising money for your legal defense, could you give our
readers some information on how they can contribute and also how they can make
their voices known on the medical marijuana issue?
ED: My two favorite organizations are www.green-aid.com and Americans for
Safe Access. Green Aid has the defense fund but they support many cases. They
choose cases they feel will tip the scales and they usually deal with 885d, the 9th
&10th amendments, and the commerce clause. I am thankful they have
supplied a legal team I couldn’t otherwise afford. So go to the website, learn
about the issues, and donate any time and money you can afford to spare for this
TOM: I know it’s still early but have you decided to back any of the current crop
of Presidential hopefuls?
ED: I support Representative Dennis Kucinich- who would issue an executive
order to legalize medical marijuana. Though Senator John Kerry is also in favor
of legalizing medical marijuana.
TOM: Is there anything you would like to add?
ED: Thank everyone for their support and the community at large for rallying
around the issue.
For more information about the issue visit the Green Aid website and the
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