There are very few people who have been compared to both a superstar homemaker and kitschy advice columnist, but Ed Rosenthal — aka the Guru of Ganga — is that person. According to the NY Times, “Mr. Rosenthal is the pothead’s answer to Ann Landers, Judge Judy, Martha Stewart, and the Burpee Garden Wizard all in one.”
Over Rosenthal’s 35-year career in the cannabis world, he has been an educator, writer, researcher, culture expert and activist, and is continuing to leave his mark on the ever-growing industry to this day.
Widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on marijuana cultivation, Rosenthal boasts a large body of written work including Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, The Big Book of Bud, Beyond Buds, Closet Cultivator and his long-running column, Ask Ed™, which ran in High Times Magazine for many years.
And of course, he continues to be a horticulture expert for cannabis training programs like those at Oaksterdam University and Cannabis Training University. In fact, the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook is often referred to as the cannabis grower’s bible and features a forward from pot culture icon Tommy Chong.
Mixing cannabis and business with Ed Rosenthal
Rosenthal has said, “Marijuana may not be addictive, but growing it is,” and his Handbook bears witness to his enthusiasm and knowledge. Geared toward both beginners and advanced growers, it features more than just growing tips, and includes scientific research, developments in technology, best practices for both indoor and outdoor grows, and how to save time, labor, and energy. In fact, Oaksterdam, based in the city of Oakland, uses the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook as the official course text for classes on marijuana cultivation.
But his expertise is much broader than that. Rosenthal’s unceasing contributions to cannabis culture and widespread marijuana acceptance include founding the cannabis organization Quick Trading Publishing and marijuana consulting and technology company Quantum 9.
Currently, he works as CEO for the charity Green Aid: The Medical Marijuana Legal Defense and Education Fund, whose mission is to provide services to protect the interests of the medical marijuana community in the United States. He is also a member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, a group dedicated to a deeper understanding of cannabis compounds like CBD and THC.
Advocating for cannabis patients and dodging jail cells
Rosenthal has always viewed cannabis as a crucial social issue, and in the early 1990s, he dedicated his time and research to examine the medicinal effects of cannabis. His objective, he told The New York Times in 2003, was to determine which varieties of marijuana could be most effective in alleviating the symptoms of diseases that today’s patients do without second thought, including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and depression.
After the passage of Prop 215 — the trailblazing 1996 initiative that legalized medical marijuana in California — Rosenthal was made an “officer of the City” by Oakland officials in 1998. His job? To grow medical marijuana for patients in the city of Oakland.
Following that dictum, Rosenthal sold starter plants to many Oakland co-ops and medical marijuana clubs. However, he was arrested by federal authorities and charged with marijuana cultivation and conspiracy in 2002.
But his conviction and subsequent legal fallout never landed him in jail for any substantial amount of time. In fact, after his conviction, several jurors, who had not been told that Rosenthal had been appointed by the city of Oakland to grow medical marijuana, renounced their previous guilty verdicts because the information had been withheld at the judge’s order during the trial.
Rosenthal was sentenced to one day in prison, and in 2006, his conviction was overturned. However, he was re-indicted in 2007 and convicted on three of five counts, including conspiracy, cultivation, and intent to distribute. Once again, he escaped the courtroom relatively unscathed, serving no prison time.
What’s Ed Rosenthal up to now?
During the years of Rosenthal’s legal battles, Green Aid was founded to support Ed’s trial. The 501(c)(3) continues to advocate for medical marijuana patients and has worked with marijuana reform organizations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to keep the children of medical marijuana patients safe from home removal by Child Protective Services, and to help patients travel by air with their medicine.
The organization also advocates to cease the practice of asset forfeiture, a dubious legal tactic whereby local law enforcement may seize money and property without evidence and without a charge or conviction. Ostensibly created to protect society at large from drug traffickers, the funds from asset forfeiture are typically fed back into law enforcement agencies who see the marijuana industry — whether operating legally or not — as easy targets.
The founder of NORML, Keith Stroup, has said of Rosenthal, “Ed has always been an out-front marijuana legalization advocate, someone willing to push the envelope, often at some personal risk, to achieve social change.”
Rosenthal continues to show up and challenge the War on Drugs — even in courtrooms as an expert witness for federal, state and civil marijuana cases — and will continue to leave his mark on a cannabis industry that is growing in acceptance and accessibility.
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