Ed Rosenthal is an icon—an OG in the cannabis space with more than a dozen educational books on growing the plant in print. He’s known as an authority on the subject, teaching long-running classes at prestigious Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California, where he makes his home with his wife and partner of more than 30 years, Jane Klein.
As one of the founders of High Times Magazine in New York City in 1974, Ed was dubbed the Guru of Ganja, writing his “Ask Ed” column for more than 20 years—long before online community forums or social media were places to gather and share information.
“Tom Forcade, Ron Lichty, and myself developed the concept for the magazine,” Ed shared. “I’d been doing statistical analysis based on a paper by Peter Knocke comparing the number of imported rolling papers over five to six years. The implication was that any increase in imports was generated by increased cannabis use. We looked at other factors as well to guesstimate the number of people using cannabis, including how many joints a day someone would smoke. Our conclusion was that the number of cannabis was vastly underestimated and a large enough community to support a monthly magazine.”
This scientific approach to the early stages of launching a national magazine entirely about weed was encouraging to the team, who were already fringe journalists and cannabis rights activists in the 1970s and had run the Underground Press Syndicate for many years.
“We mapped out 100 stories we thought we could publish, including my column,” Ed added. “Those stories became the first two years of the magazine. We didn’t have any ads at first, so we used national mainstream ads without permission, and that brought in a lot of advertisers to follow.”
As a journalist, Ed was embedded in the underground, reporting on grows that were considered illegal activities at the time. His “Ask Ed” column became the go-to for growers large and small at a time when doing so could land you in Federal prison. Ed knew that though the plant was illegal, people would grow it anyway; showing how to grow it better was a much needed service.
When asked about the decades worth of misinformation about cannabis as a medicinal plant, Ed responded vehemently, “It’s not misinformation, they lied to us to achieve the goal of discriminating against minorities and cannabis users! Even more shameful was the fact that the government knew about the medicinal benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, patenting them while lying to the public.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Shafer Commission’s report, published in 1972, calling for the decriminalization of cannabis, as it was about to be put on the Department of Health’s Schedule 1. Authored by then former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer, the report was ignored by the administration under Pres. Richard Nixon—who appointed Governor Shafer to the task, then proceeded to keep cannabis on the list of dangerous drugs with no medicinal value.
For those of us like Ed, who have been penning articles and columns to the contrary for years, positive changes have been slow in coming, but we persist.
Deputized, then Raided
In 2002, Ed was raided at his nursery where he grew plants for patients that got distributed through medical dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay area. The subsequent court case was one of the most high-profile at the time, as Ed had been Deputized prior to the raid by the City of Oakland as an officer, able to distribute legal medical cannabis under California’s Proposition 215, as voted on in 1996.
The Federally selected jury, however, was not privy to this State recognition, and Ed was convicted in 2003 with all charges overturned by the Federal Appeals Court in 2006. This was due to a cannabis-sympathetic juror questioning the trial to a lawyer friend, who provided misinformation about juror responsibilities. But, Ed had a firm belief that he’d never do time for the plant.
“The judge lost friends over my trial—he and his wife were socialites in San Francisco, but they stopped being invited to parties. Everyone was against convicting me for this plant,” he said. “I was an educator and an activist—I did everything with the plant but sell it. For me, the trial was just another way to help change the public opinion of the law.
Unlike many who’ve been raided, persecuted, and judged for working with the plant, Ed went back to life as usual, publishing, educating, and advocating for the right to grow and use cannabis.
Nuptials, Lilies, and Weed
Through all the trials and tribulations, one little-known aspect of Ed’s life is the one he’s shared with his longtime partner and wife of 33 years, Jane Klein.
Ed was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and Jane grew up in Hempsted, Long Island—but the two might as well have been from two different worlds.
They met through mutual friends, but Jane said he was too much of a hippie for her at the time.
In actuality, Ed’s past life included working as an Assistant Compliance Officer for a stock brokerage company. The year was 1967, and a co-worker brought Jane over to visit; but it wasn’t until the 1980s, after Jane and Ed had both put down roots in California that they became close.
One rumor within the cannabis community is that Jane also grew cannabis when they met, but the truth is, Jane grows other kinds of flowers, and they both grow vegetables together in their at-home hydroponics garden.
“I love to grow lilies, and Ed has a hydro bumper crop of tomatoes growing now,” Jane said. “Ed made onion soup the other night from scallions, zucchini, and peppers from the garden.”
Jane has been indispensable as CEO of their Quick Trading Publishing company, publishing most of Ed’s and other writer’s books for more than 25 years.
“We don’t just regurgitate his old columns or how-to books,” she said. “Each book is updated to the times, as lighting and growing practices are always changing.”
His current effort, The Cannabis Grower’s Handbook, with Dr. Robert Flannery and Angela Bacca, includes a preface by Steve DeAngelo, a forward by none other than Tommy Chong, and an introduction by Angela Bacca. It’s an epic, updated compilation of just about everything you’d like to know about growing cannabis, and then some.
Ed has collaborated with many talented writers over the years in the space, including Angela Bacca, Ellen Holland, and David Downs.
As for their longevity in the space, both Ed and Jane agree the plant has something to do with that, as well.
“We are very fortunate to be in our 70s and aren’t taking any pharmaceutical medications,” Jane concluded. “Cannabis has taken the steam off tension, anxiety, stress—which can all cause illness, disorders, and psychological damage.”
In classic Ed form, he chided, “Besides my relationship with Jane, cannabis is the longest running relationship I’ve had with a woman in my entire life.” As he said this, Jane chuckled beside him.
Backyard Weed for All
Ed’s accomplishments over the years as an activist are too numerous to name, and he has no intention of stopping yet. Recently on stage during the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Barcelona, Spain, he quipped to an amused audience, “Everything they told us about weed is wrong. They said weed would lead to hard drugs, but we all know weed leads to hash.”
“Ed has just launched a lifetime dream towards fulfilling the goal of helping people to grow free backyard weed for all,” Jane shared. “Legalization in the U.S. is almost the law of the land now, and we are focusing on the POWs—the Prisoners of Weed.”
Ed’s Prisoners of Weed book pack includes two of his books, Cannabis Grower’s Handbook and Ask Ed: Marijuana Success, and a pack of seeds—genetics approved by Ed. Ten percent of proceeds go to the Last Prisoner Project, supporting the release and financial help to POWs.
“This is a real win-win-win,” Ed surmised. “I didn’t have to do time after I was raided, and I looked at it as just another form of activism. But, there are still people out there doing time for a plant many are profiting on now, and that’s wrong. We need to change that yesterday.”
For more information on Ed visit edrosenthal.com
For more information on The Last Prisoner Project visit, lastprisonerproject.org