Stop Snitching

Medical pot activists haze the traitors who ratted out Ed Rosenthal

Our local medical marijuana activists have been engaging in some heavy peer pressure recently. This spring, as the second federal trial against pot guru Ed Rosenthal approached, the activists went on a bullying campaign to keep witnesses from testifying against Rosenthal by whatever means necessary.

The often farcical trial ended last week, with convictions on several charges of violating federal drug laws (although under state law his medical marijuana operation was entirely legal). Rosenthal faces no punishment beyond the one day of jail time he served after his first conviction in 2003. But activists still believed that the trial had high stakes and intimidated witnesses.

Two who planned to cooperate with the government started feeling the heat in April. Angry and sometimes vicious e-mails circulated regarding Rick Watts and Bob Martin, who were both involved with several cannabis clubs back when Rosenthal was busted. When Watts organized a Cannabis Freedom Day celebration, the activist group Axis of Love declared a boycott. A press release from the group's executive director, Shona Gochenaur, castigated those testifiying against Rosenthal as traitors to the medical marijuana community, cooperating with the feds "in order to save their own hides."

Apparently, it was enough to convince Watts. He didn't appear in court on the scheduled day, and the judge had to send the cops to bring him in. When he took the stand as a hostile witness, he was no help to the prosecution. He insisted that he had merely been a carpenter at the cannabis clubs in question, and was too busy pounding nails to notice what was being grown and sold there.

Bob Martin, however, was another story — he testified willingly in 2003, and did so again last week. He and Rosenthal have an antagonistic history involving one lawsuit, and Rosenthal once threw Martin out of a NORML conference, "because he was a snitch," says Rosenthal.

Martin, the owner of two active cannabis clubs, has become the green devil to many activists. Lynnette Shaw, who runs the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, says that Martin "sold everybody out for a comfortable little place selling pot." She notes that the federal government is clearly aware of Martin's two businesses, but allows them to operate with impunity.

We tried to reach Martin for comment, but no one answered the phone at either of his clubs. So we'll blithely assume that he's either hiding from the wrath of his fellow potheads, or sharing a bowl with the feds. ------ For more on pot gurus and the conversations they inspire, check out Eliza's follow-up post, "Fun with Trial Transcripts," on The Snitch, SFWeekly's daily Culture and Society blog.

 
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