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Advocate supports marijuana bill

Legislative effort on medicinal use backed by California grower in controversial trial

A California man who faces federal prison time for growing medical marijuana came to the Rogue Valley Thursday to support a new Oregon initiative that would create state-regulated cannabis dispensaries.

opened a four-day swing through Oregon with stops in Medford and Ashland. Rosenthal said sick people who want to use marijuana as medicine should not be expected to grow their own.

To ask people to grow their own medicine is cruel and unusual punishment for people whose only crime is being sick, Rosenthal said before a book signing at Medford's Bartlett Street Bookstore.

Medical marijuana supporters launched the signature-gathering campaign for the new initiative a day after the Oregon House approved a measure that could tighten access to the drug and restrict the number of plants that could be grown on any one site.

— The House voted 35-19 to send HB 2939 to the Senate. The bill would allow the Department of Human Services to deny a marijuana card to anyone with a felony drug conviction and limit to seven the number of plants that could be grown at any one site. Users also would have to inform the state where their plants are being grown.

Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, who voted for the measure, said it cleans up some problem areas in the original marijuana initiative and will help law enforcement officials pursue illegal marijuana gardens because card-holders will have to declare where their plants are growing.

If people perceive that (HB 2939) tightens up the procedures, I think that's fine, Patridge said.

Three other Southern Oregon Republicans joined Patridge in supporting the measure: George Gilman of Medford, Gordon Anderson of Grants Pass and Susan Morgan of Myrtle Point. Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, was absent for the vote. Rep. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, was excused for a family emergency.

Medical-marijuana supporters brought Rosenthal to Oregon because his trial has focused national attention on federal efforts to curtail use of cannabis for pain relief.

They feel if they can quash it in California it will be much easier in the other states, he said.

Rosenthal made headlines in February when a jury convicted him of growing marijuana. After the trial, at least six jurors said they would not have convicted Rosenthal if they had known he was growing marijuana for people who used it for pain relief ' a legitimate use under California law.

Rosenthal had been authorized by Oakland city officials to grow marijuana to enable sick people to buy it in a regulated market instead of an alley. The judge prevented the jury from hearing any information about the state law, saying it was irrelevant in a federal prosecution.

Rosenthal is scheduled to be sentenced in June. He said he will appeal his conviction and expects eventually to win the case.

Medical-marijuana advocates hope to gather 100,000 signatures to give their new initiative a place on the November 2004 ballot.

The initiative would create nonprofit, state-regulated dispensaries which could cultivate, process and dispense marijuana to registered users. Among other changes, the initiative would allow registered users to possess — pound of marijuana (rather than the present — ounces), and as much as 6 pounds if they produced just one annual crop.

The new initiative caught Southern Oregon Drug Awareness by surprise. Executive director Stephanie Soares Pump said she could not comment on the proposal until the board of directors had reviewed it. Soares Pump said SODA would develop a position on the proposal if it qualifies for the ballot.

Ed Rosenthal