SAN FRANCISCO — Two Oakland men pleaded innocent to marijuana cultivation charges Monday at a federal court arraignment in San Francisco in which they were told of stiff mandatory sentences if they are convicted.
Edward Rosenthal, 57, and James Halloran, 61, are among four men who were arrested in a Bay Area marijuana sweep last month and indicted by a federal grand jury last week.
Rosenthal, the author of several books and a column about marijuana growing, is one of three men allegedly associated with the Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana club in San Francisco.
Halloran is accused in a separate indictment of growing marijuana in an Oakland warehouse.
U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero told Rosenthal today that he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of a count of conspiring to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants.
Rosenthal also faces charges of growing more than 100 plants, which carries a mandatory five-year term, and maintaining premises in Oakland to grow marijuana, with a possible 20-year sentence.
Halloran was told during the arraignment that he faces a mandatory 20-year sentence if found guilty of growing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a playground. He is also accused of growing more than 1,000 plants, which carries a mandatory 10-year sentence, and maintaining marijuana premises, with a possible 20-year term.
Halloran said outside of court that he is “staggered” by the charges and possible sentences. Halloran, who said he is a hepatitis patient who needs marijuana for medical reasons, said, “I never hurt anybody. I'm a health giver.”
Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case.
Spero ordered Rosenthal to return to the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco on March 20 for setting of a trial date. Halloran was instructed to appear before U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland on March 19.
Both men are free on $500,000 bail.