Pubdate: Sat, 27 Sep 2003
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Timothy Zindel


Editor -- Marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal spreads a self-defeating
misconception when he complains (Open Forum, "Not what the doctor ordered,"
Sept. 26) that he cannot vote in the recall election because of his felony
marijuana convictions. His mistake promotes the disenfranchisement of an
increasing portion of our population -- convicted felons.

Under California law (section 2101 of the Elections Code), convicted felons
have the same right to vote as those who have avoided the maw of our
criminal-justice system. The law says they may vote if they are "not in
prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony." Rosenthal, sentenced to
supervised release under federal law, is not in prison or on parole, so he
may vote. He might even consider running for office.

Should he doubt what I say, he should ask B.E. Smith of Trinity County,
state-certified as an independent candidate for governor. Smith, a Vietnam
veteran who smokes marijuana to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder
caused by his military service, became the first victim of the federal
crusade against marijuana when, in 1999, a federal judge in Sacramento
sentenced him to 27 months in prison. His crime: After the voters enacted
Proposition 215, decriminalizing medical use and cultivation of marijuana,
he grew 87 medical marijuana plants. Before he acted, he went to the county
sheriff and the board of supervisors with his plan. At trial, he was not
permitted to say anything about his purposes to the jury.

Like Rosenthal, Smith remains on federal supervision, but because he served
his time, he is eligible to vote and run for office. His platform includes
clemency for those who -- like Rosenthal -- were convicted of committing
victimless drug crimes.

There are millions of men and women in the country today with felony
records. Think what they could accomplish if they knew they could vote.


Assistant Federal Public Defender



Based on misinformation from his probation officer, Ed Rosenthal wrote in
his Open Forum piece Friday ("Not what the doctor ordered") that he could
not vote. In fact, California law allows convicted felons to vote, as long
as they are not in jail or on parole.
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