Ed Rosenthal stood before 400 pot plants on the stage at Southern Oregon University Sunday, as he taught locals how to successfully grow medical marijuana and grew heated himself as he railed against state laws restricting how many plants a patient can have.

Ed Rosenthal stood before 400 pot plants on the stage Sunday at Southern Oregon University, as he taught locals how to successfully grow medical marijuana and grew heated himself as he railed against state laws restricting how many plants a patient can have.

There was no actual pot present at the gathering, save for the occasional smell of it on people's clothes; instead, Rosenthal projected photographs of the plants onto a large screen to a crowd of about 50 at Meese Auditorium.

Rosenthal, considered an expert in the field and author of more than a dozen books on marijuana, traveled from California to give the lecture, which raised money for SOU's Students For Truth group and Voter Power, an Oregon medical marijuana activist organization with an office in Medford.

Voter Power is working to collect 130,000 signatures to get a measure on the state's 2010 ballot that, if passed, would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to be set up, like in California. Under existing laws, Oregon patients can grow up to six plants for themselves, or have a registered grower cultivate the same amount for them.

"It's high time that people in Oregon have access to medicine when they need it," Rosenthal said before his lecture. "Nobody should be deprived of medicine when they need it."

One of the benefits of the dispensary system is that patients have access to pharmaceutical-grade pot and different tinctures of marijuana, he said.

"Patients need the best medicine they can get," Rosenthal added.

Norma Jean Evans, who came to the seminar from Jacksonville with a friend who uses medical marijuana, said the dispensaries would allow her friend to gain access to more strains of pot, which might help alleviate the friend's symptoms better, because each person responds differently to each strain.

"It needs to be accessible to people who can't grow it themselves and it would enable them (health officials) to get more testing done, to see which tinctures and plants are most effective," she said.

During his lecture, Rosenthal presented tips on how to grow large-scale pot gardens, using an operation in Sonoma County, Calif. as an example. The Sonoma County medical marijuana garden was created on a tennis court at a luxury home, and the plants were grown in 30 gallon plastic bags, using drip systems, cooling fans and shade coverings.

"This was a tennis court of the idle rich, but this person decided not to be idle anymore," Rosenthal said.

Dressed in Birkenstocks, a Hawaiian shirt and khakis, the marijuana expert kicked aside his cool demeanor when someone brought up the issue of how many plants Oregon patients can legally grow.

"The Oregon law's basically unconstitutional," he said. "It's unconstitutional when they restrict a patient's access to medicine.

"When you think of medical marijuana, I want you to think of insulin and when you think of a medical marijuana patient, I want you to think of a diabetic. If it doesn't sound right for the diabetic, it doesn't sound right for the medical marijuana patient," Rosenthal added.

Because the Oregon law has designated marijuana as a medicine for certain patients, it's not fair to restrict their access to it by only allowing people to grow six plants, he said.

Still, Rosenthal cautioned that the federal government could step in and prosecute growers, because U.S. law prohibits using or growing marijuana — even for medical purposes.

A grower raised his hand during the meeting to ask if his property could be seized if he stayed within Oregon law and grew only six plants per patient.

"Yes, the feds can do that because you're breaking the federal law," Rosenthal answered.

John Sajo, executive director of Voter Power, said he wanted Rosenthal to speak to local growers to "make sure the people who cultivate marijuana for patients know what they're doing."

Voter Power has already collected 20,000 signatures for the dispensary measure and hopes to complete the signature process by the end of 2009 to have a year to campaign for the issue, Sajo said.

"Our feeling is that the more people hear about it, the more people are going to like it and vote for it," he said.