United States v. Rosenthal

266 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (2003)

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United States v. Rosenthal

United States District Court for the Northern District of California
266 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (2003)

  • Written by Patrick Speice, JD

Facts

The City of Oakland authorized a marijuana collective to distribute medical marijuana under a local law that implemented California’s medical-marijuana law. The local law designated collective employees as local governmental officials to immunize the employees from prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which strictly prohibited cultivation and distribution of marijuana but immunized governmental officials from prosecution for lawfully enforcing state and local marijuana laws. Ed Rosenthal (defendant) started growing marijuana for the collective after being advised that doing so rendered Rosenthal a local official immune from prosecution under the CSA. Rosenthal was nevertheless charged with manufacture of a controlled substance under the CSA. Rosenthal moved to dismiss the charges based on governmental immunity, but the court denied the motion. Before trial, the government moved to preclude Rosenthal from offering evidence that Rosenthal grew marijuana to ease the suffering of patients with serious illnesses, arguing that such evidence was irrelevant to whether Rosenthal was guilty and was therefore inadmissible. Rosenthal countered that evidence regarding Rosenthal’s reason for growing marijuana could result in an acquittal through jury nullification and was therefore admissible. The court agreed with the government and excluded the evidence. During closing arguments, Rosenthal suggested that the jury should be guided by what the jury believed to be a just result. The court instructed the jurors to follow the law and not substitute personal notions of justice when deciding. Rosenthal was convicted and moved for a new trial, arguing that the court’s instruction improperly discouraged the jury from nullifying and re-raising the previously denied governmental-immunity argument.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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