Marijuana guru told he will not go to prison

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The Independent US

One of the most bizarre recent episodes in the much-criticised United States war on drugs came to a quiet conclusion yesterday when California's leading marijuana guru, Ed Rosenthal, was told he would not serve prison time for growing pot for medicinal purposes.

The case caused an uproar because Mr Rosenthal was growing the plants on behalf of the city of Oakland, near San Francisco, in full accordance with Californian state law. His supporters believe he was arrested, tried and convicted because the Bush administration is on a crusade to eliminate medical marijuana regardless of local legal provisions.

The jury at his federal trial was never told of his position under Californian law - prompting five of the 12 jurors to stage an open revolt once the trial was over and they learnt the full truth of his position.

The judge in the case, Charles Breyer of the San Francisco District Court, came under heavy pressure to show leniency and received a highly critical letter from California's attorney general, Bill Lockyer.

Despite strenuous objections by the prosecution, which had asked for a six-year prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Mr Rosenthal to time served plus fines of $1,300 (£800). He made no apology for the original convictions or his direction of the jury.

Mr Rosenthal's mood was described by a spokesman as "relieved and buoyant".