'5 cannabis growers who changed the game' - Leafly

 Ed Rosenthal. Image by Steef Fleur. 

Ed Rosenthal. Image by Steef Fleur. 

From its first issue in 1974, High Times magazine featured Ed Rosenthal’s coverage of cannabis cultivation, with a special focus on the increasing number of people choosing to grow their own for the first time. Instantly, his advice column—“Ask Ed: Your Marijuana Questions Answered”made him one of the very few recognized experts on a subject that would remain largely sub rosa for the next forty years.

The column remains in print today, and Rosenthal has founded Quick Trading Publishing to put out his own books and the writings of an impressive roster of fellow cannabis authors and researchers. He’s also been a tireless advocate and activist for the cause of medical cannabis and legalization.

In 1999, Rosenthal’s adopted home of Oakland, California appointed him an “Officer of the City” and tasked him with cultivating cannabis to supply local medical patients. Three years later, the federal government raided his city-supported grow operation and arrested him. At trial, Rosenthal and his lawyer were barred from mentioning that he was growing for medical patients, or that he did so at the City of Oakland’s request.

After voting to convict, several jurors later denounced the verdict when they learned the circumstances.

According to a New York Times account of the case, Rosenthal “faced a possible sentence of 100 years in prison and a potential fine of $4.5 million,” but U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer sentenced him to just one day in prison. Rosenthal appealed anyway, and in 2006, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court subsequently overturned his criminal conviction.

Next time you hear someone talk about how entrepreneurs, politicians, or investors are leading the charge towards legalization, remember than none of this would be possible without the campaign of civil disobedience.

A few months later, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office re-indicted him, even though the judge in the case had publicly vowed not to add any more prison time than the one day already served. Again barred from mentioning medical cannabis or Oakland’s tacit approval of his grow operation, a new jury convicted Rosenthal, and true to his word, the judge added no new prison time.

But the Feds did succeed in sending a warning to every other medical cannabis grower stating that state law would not stop the Department of Justice or the DEA from banging down your door. Nevertheless, growers persisted.

So next time you hear someone talk about how entrepreneurs, politicians, or investors are leading the charge towards legalization, remember than none of this would be remotely possible without the incredible and sustained campaign of civil disobedience against these terrible laws spearheaded by the world’s underground cannabis cultivators—who vowed to “Overgrow the Government” and succeeded.