LADY BUSINESS: Jane Klein, Growing a Cannabis Activist Empire

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Photos by Angela Bacca unless otherwise noted. 

Is it embarrassing in this day and age to say that I really didn’t know who Jane Klein was besides being the wife of a world famous cannabis botanist? I, like most cannabis enthusiasts am familiar with her husband, Ed Rosenthal. For about forty years, Ed’s been a credible source for dispensing answers regarding growing and other related marijuana matters in his advice column ‘Ask Ed.’ Plus there’s the 20 or so books he’s authored that tend to get a person’s name known. Knew of Ed, knew very little of Jane.

Pulling into the driveway of their compound, the morning light captures what may have been a perfect image for my story of who is Jane Klein. In this halo of brilliance, she’s bemused watching a city cat wolf down some chow out of a worn red bowl. She stands in the middle of a large lush garden, filled with wild flowers and plants, a pair of pruners and a small claw garden-tool thing resting in her gloved hands at her side. She laughs when the cat knocks over the emptied bowl and scurries off out of the yard for her next appointment. What a great image! The nurturing ‘Eternal Flower Child’ who cares for kitties, has a coffee-table book looking garden, and is on a cool adventure with her husband of more than twenty years, the pot authority. This snapshot could describe her better than say, 750 words.

Stepping on the garden flagstones, Jane confides, “I don’t know how many feral cats I feed? 2, 3, 4… maybe 5.” Make a mental note, people like people who are good to animals.

“If I had my way, I’d take a shovel to their heads,” she laughs again. “I’m kidding but I’m not. Cats do not have any great predators here in the city. It’s going to get out of control. I mean, who’s responsible for them?”

We both look where the cat was last before it disappeared down the street. Jane then turns and says with a deadpan grin, “But I feed them… what are you going to do?”

After a quick tour of the house that also serves as the offices for the small staff of their publishing house, Quick Trading Company, we settle in a balcony space that overlooks one of their great rooms. Jane Klein, petite, energetic, thoughtful in her thinking, waits as a tape recorder is placed on the table in front of her.

I ask the native New Yorker, “Growing up, did you have dreams of running a cannabis publishing company? How’d you get here?” She lets out a whirl of a laugh. “Wow, it could have been the big black headphones we had back in the Sixties. Do you remember those?” Jane giggles at the memory.

“I was really caught up with the idealism of the Sixties. My college was next to Kent State. I was next door when the four students were shot. The anti-war movement, feminism, I became politically active. How could you not? The government was lying. There was this great sense of the Old World versus the New World. Everything was changing.

“I was really caught up with the idealism of the Sixties. My college was next to Kent State. I was next door when the four students were shot. The anti-war movement, feminism, I became politically active. How could you not? The government was lying. There was this great sense of the Old World versus the New World. Everything was changing.”

“I had smoked some bunk weed in high school but the first time I got kind of stoned… was in college. I was in this frat house with some of the supposedly ‘cool guys’. Guys who got stoned. While we’re passing the joint around, one of the frat guys received a call about a freshman who wanted to join. The caller was saying that the pledge smoked reefer. And the guys who I am smoking with rejected this pledge because he smoked marijuana. Change was happening, but slowly. Again, Old World versus New World.

“That night, I went home stoned and listened to Sgt. Pepper with those big headphones. That was life-changing. I remember the moment so clearly because those headphones were the size of a house. I was stoned thinking this is a turning point. Everything was changing. Interesting enough, a little later, my mother contracted an intestinal infection. She was experiencing great discomfort and I suggested some marijuana. For a little while, both my parents smoked marijuana. But they both eventually went back to alcohol. It really wasn’t my mother’s thing, and weirdly enough, my father felt guilty that when he got high, there wasn’t the hangover that happened with booze. He felt guilty that marijuana calmed and relieved you, and there wasn’t any individual sacrifice like you had with alcohol.

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June marks the tenth anniversary of Rosenthal’s infamous sentencing. “The judge did me no favor, nobody should be in jail for marijuana,” was his reply. Jane Klein with husband Ed Rosenthal and then 11-year-old daughter Justine. The tone of the trial was defined by Justine’s public statement, “My dad helps sick people. My dad is a hero.”
Photo source: Associated Press

“I’ve always seen marijuana as medicinal. It helps me with anxiety. It was so hard during Ed’s trial. He was deputized by the City of Oakland to work with dispensaries. Set up grows and gardens for medical marijuana. We had the Oakland Fire Department and others check us for compliance. We were trying to be transparent and open. Then 2002, the Feds, DEA, IRS, raided us at 6:00am. The trial actually was short, but the time leading up to that was stressful. At the trial, Judge Charles Breyer wouldn’t allow the jury to hear any testimony about medical anything or that we were working for the state. But we had great support. Senator Mark Leno, the City of Oakland, the California Attorney General wrote on our behalf. But Judge Breyer thought he had a pot kingpin and proceeded like Ed was a street dealer.

“I’ve always seen marijuana as medicinal. It helps me with anxiety.”

“Our legal troubles didn’t end until 2007. [The charges against Ed Rosenthal were dropped except for 3 convictions from the original trial. The sentence was one day with time already served.] We had jurors from the first trial pleading with the judge on Ed’s behalf. And it really raised the issue of States’ rights versus Federal rights. One of the great things was instead of being strictly about Ed and his case, it turned into an issue played out on the front pages. We had a tsunami in terms of public support.

“This gets back to the Old World versus the New World model. I’ve learned anything is possible. From the anti-war movement, where it started for a lot of us, to where we are now… cannabis parallels society. It’s about individual freedoms. It’s about empowerment. That means the ability to grow. We have more women playing sports, being captains of their teams. That will translate into the work force. More and more women will be leaders of industry.

Jane Klein, husband Ed Rosenthal and daughter Justine leaving court, circa 2003.

Jane Klein, husband Ed Rosenthal and daughter Justine leaving court, circa 2003.
Photo Source: Associated Press

“We’ve been married for 23 years. I’ve been managing the empire, as you call it, for about 15. Ed’s the moral compass. I make my decisions based on what Ed would want. We have 20 books in print and more e-books and new products coming out all the time. To tell you the truth, the trial was good for business. We sold a lot of books because the Feds were advertising for us.

“But we were just a pebble. The ripple effect is happening. As a book publisher, my job is to get the information to the next level. The struggle never stops.”

As I leave a couple of the staff, who’ve been waiting patiently, needed some answers from the CEO of Ed. “Denver called regarding Ed’s appearance out there April 20th. We’re shipping 30 copies of Big Buds….”

Jane smiles and raises her hands as if to say, What are you going to do?

For the two employees in front of her, luckily all they have to do is ask Jane.