Stash Box: How Ed Rosenthal Helped Grow the Movement

The horticulturist cultivated cannabis culture by teaching people to grow their own.

The first time Ed Rosenthal smoked pot, he thought, “This is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life.” The year was 1965, and Rosenthal was 21 and working on Wall Street. A few years later he found himself in the Bay Area, rubbing elbows with the Youth International Party, aka Yippies, a radical countercultural political party that counted Abbie Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, and Jerry Rubin among its members and was responsible for pranks, sit-ins, and shutdowns all over the country. It was in this greenhouse of political and social activism that Rosenthal began to explore cannabis horticulture while simultaneously challenging the legal standing of cannabis cultivation, two acts that have landed him a spot on the Stash Box list of Cannabis Luminaries.

One of his earliest major accomplishments came in 1972, when Rosenthal managed to get in front of voters a California state initiative that would have legalized cannabis for personal use. It was voted down, but a public conversation concerning the repeal of prohibition had begun, at least in that state.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Rosenthal guided an entire generation of pot growers through his “Ask Ed” column in High Times, eventually publishing the authoritative book on growing, Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, an unequivocally groundbreaking collection of science and folk wisdom for pot cultivation.

Rosenthal also worked extensively with AIDS and cancer patients during this time, providing medical-grade cannabis in exchange for information on how different strains affected them. He documented this work in the Marijuana Medical Handbook: A Guide to Therapeutic Use, the industry standard for prescribing cannabis medicinally.

In 1998, two years after California legalized medical weed, the Oakland City Council granted Rosenthal the legal standing to grow cannabis. He did, filling an old warehouse in West Oakland. However, cannabis was then (as now) illegal on the federal level. So in 2003 the DEA raided Rosenthal’s warehouse, seizing hundreds of plants and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. When Rosenthal finally got his day in court, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer would not let him discuss the fact that the Oakland City Council had granted him growing privileges, nor could he call any public officials to testify that it had happened, effectively pulling the rug out from under his defense team and leaving Rosenthal to face up to 25 years in prison for manufacturing and distribution of marijuana.

With public outcry mounting, the judge sentenced Rosenthal to one day, with time served.

In 2006, the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court overturned Rosenthal’s conviction. A few months later, the U.S. Attorney’s office re-indicted him, and he went back to court in 2007. Two weeks later, Rosenthal was convicted of three of the five counts. He served no additional time.

These days, the septuagenarian is taking it all in stride, teaching cannabis horticulture at Oakland’s Oaksterdam University. A member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society and The Association for Garden Communicators, his career has spawned his own line of pesticides and over a dozen books that have cumulatively sold more than two million copies and spread the gospel of cannabis cultivation worldwide. And for those not interested in growing their own, Rosenthal’s site even offers prerolled joints “loaded with primo weed, selected by the Guru of Ganja himself.”

stashbox@seattleweekly.com

More in Eat Drink Toke

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

Getting Seniors Stoned

How the elderly have become the hottest cannabis demographic.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
A Little Look at Microdosing

Hailed as the next great trend in cannabis, is there any substance to the hype?

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
I Want My Weed Coffeehouses

We legalized marijuana in 2012, we should have figured this out by now.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Getting Ripped While Ripped

The latest trend in cannabis is working out while high, but is it a good idea?

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Overbaked

What to do when you get way too high.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Fruit of the Plume

How do weed growers get strawberries, lemons, and cherries in your bowl?

Shattered Glass

What to do when your glass weed-smoking devices break.

Illustration by James the Stanton
Deep Purple

Purple weed looks cool, but is its beauty only skin deep?

Illustration by James the Stanton
How Many Drug-Sniffing Dogs Will Be Killed By Cannabis Legalization?

Spoiler: None. It just turns out an Illinois police department is full of doggone liars.

Deli Bellies

Seattle’s deli scene leaves a lot to be desired, but new options look to spice things up.

A special three-course dinner at Goldfinch Tavern is just one option for celebrating Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy Goldfinch Tavern
Mother’s Day 2018 Event Planner

Whether she’s an early bird or a night owl, there’s more than enough happening around Seattle to keep mom active.