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The fate of a well-known marijuana guru who allegedly supplied a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary with hundreds of plants is finally in the hands of a federal jury, bringing a circuslike trial closer to its conclusion. Much like the previous two weeks, the final day in court was filled with objections, admonitions and outbursts. While the prosecution and U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer tried to focus the jury on the facts at hand, defense lawyers made allusions to medical marijuana in a sideways attempt for acquittal. “Nobody expects you as a juror to check your common sense at the door. . . . Use your common sense. Use your life experience when you judge this case,” urged defense attorney Robert Eye during his closing argument, which was interrupted several times by Breyer and Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan Jr. “You cannot substitute your sense of justice” for the law, Breyer immediately reminded the jurors. “It’s not your job to decide whether the law is just or unjust. That cannot be your task.” Outside the court, the case showed itself as a clash between federal law and California’s Proposition 215, the state’s medical marijuana initiative. Inside, however, it has been an ongoing battle over whether the jury should know the purpose for which Rosenthal grew his crop at a Mandela Parkway warehouse in Oakland. Pamphleteers have handed out cards about jury nullification outside the federal courthouse on Golden Gate Avenue, while the conclusion of trial each day has usually been met with some sort of protest. Inside the courtroom, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd is staunchly in support of Rosenthal. After one loud uproar Thursday, Breyer threatened to clear the courtroom. Last week the judge also threatened a gag order in the case, but later decided against it. Unhappy with the media’s coverage of the trial and several pro-medical marijuana billboards that have appeared during the course of trial, Bevan says he believes there is a coordinated campaign to taint the jury. On Thursday, Bevan spent the last part of his closing argument trying to unring the bell that defense lawyers rang by implying that the jury should ignore the law and vote with its heart. “You know what counsel’s telling you. Counsel’s saying, ‘Base your decision on something other than the evidence,’” Bevan said. “Your decision in this case is based on the evidence. “This is a federal courtroom. It’s not a polling place. You’re not congressmen or congresswomen. . . . You cannot apply your own standard of justice.” Rosenthal was arrested in February 2002 following raids on his Oakland grow operation and the HARM Reduction Center in San Francisco. They were two in a series of raids that federal authorities launched on medical marijuana dispensaries statewide. Prior to trial, Breyer barred the use of a medical marijuana defense, saying federal law supersedes state law. Consequently, the defense case lasted barely more than three hours and consisted of two witnesses — an experienced investigator of marijuana cases and Alameda County Supervisor Nathan Miley. That Breyer allowed Miley’s testimony was something of a coup for the defense. Miley, then a member of the Oakland City Council, testified that he (and, consequently, the city) knew about Rosenthal’s operation. His testimony also led to one of the more bizarre exchanges of the trial. Breyer sought to eliminate references to Proposition 215 in Miley’s testimony, and approved a redacted proffer sheet to that effect. But Breyer evidently felt the questioning wasn’t precise enough after Miley said that Rosenthal’s operation was “growing plants for people who couldn’t grow them themselves.” “No,” Breyer interrupted. He then picked up the proffer sheet and directed a series of yes or no questions at Miley. “That covers the proffer,” Breyer said. The defense also took great pains to cast doubt on the number of plants the government confiscated by attacking the definition of a plant. They argued that plants without a root structure developed enough to make them “viable” without the incubation of a grow operation did not qualify as plants. But the jury was instructed to judge plants by whether they had an “observable” root structure, a blow for the defense. The number of plants is a factor in sentencing. Rosenthal, a High Times magazine columnist and author of several books about growing marijuana, is charged with three felonies: conspiracy, manufacturing a controlled substance and maintaining a place for manufacturing a controlled substance. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday.

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