• Long Beach Marijuana Collective Duo Freed

    Photo by Steve Baker

    By Diana Lejins, Contributing Writer
    On April 17, exhausted but jubilant, medical cannabis collective business partners Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron walked away free men from the new Long Beach Courthouse, ending a five-year legal nightmare.
    In a surprise move, Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano announced that the District Attorney’s office had decided not to pursue the case.
    Judge Arthur Jean, who originally set bail at $560,000 in December 2010 — an amount higher than for many violent offenders such as rapists, murderers and child molesters — presided.
    “Dismissed,“ quickly responding Jean said.
    The duo was freed and all criminal charges against the duo were “thrown out”.
    Premature Absolution
    The judicial nightmare began in December 2008, when Grumbine was transporting medical marijuana to supply his dispensary.
    Police officers pulled him for a routine traffic stop in Riverside. And, after smelling marijuana, the officer searched his car. Grumbine was arrested. A Riverside County judge found Grumbine to be totally compliant with California laws and dismissed the charges. The magistrate ordered all of Grumbine’s property to be returned.

    Entrapment and SWAT
    From October through December 2009, several undercover Long Beach Police Department officers presented “legitimate” physician’s recommendations to the dispensaries for membership.
    Clinic employees verified the physicians and their licensure standing. Additionally, the “patients’” identifications were checked for residency and currency. The police officers signed the collective agreements and obtained less than a sum total of two ounces of medical cannabis within 12 visits. For each literal entrapment, the Joes were eventually charged with separate felonies.
    On December 2009 more than 120 armed police officers from Long Beach, Los Angeles and Orange County descended on multiple locations citing that there were criminal enterprises taking place.
    In a SWAT-style raid, complete with machine guns, helicopters, and military dogs, they arrested 17 people, including legitimate disabled patients. They seized the contents of three dispensaries and two grow sites, plus many items from residences and other unconnected business locations. The arrestees were subjected to full-cavity body searches and kept overnight before being released with no charges filed. At all clinic sites and both men’s homes, SWAT teams ransacked with abandon.
    Besides destroying numerous items such as surveillance cameras and knocking down doors that were not locked, they pointed assault weapons at Grumbine’s terrified wife and daughter, and handcuffed them for hours. (No charges filed.)
    Grumbine said that Los Angeles Police Detective Salb told them that they “should all be put down like animals.”
    “The place (home) looked like a bomb had gone off,” Grumbine said.
    About $32,000 in cash was confiscated from all of the locations searched. This included the dispensaries and homes of both Joes, employee and volunteer homes, their personal bank accounts, patients and their homes, and unrelated businesses—owned many years prior to the clinics. The two received a note 30 days later stating that the money was sent to “asset forfeiture,”,a black hole created by the government to swallow up monies and assets to fund more military-style equipment and raids. They ultimately nabbed a California Highway patrolman, whose wife was employed at a clinics. While the officer was placed on administrative leave for nine months, he was eventually exonerated.
    “They even eat their own,” Grumbine said .
    Grumbine said that after trashing his house, storage sheds and the entire garden nursery, the police left human feces in all three toilets of his home. In the end, all they found was a small amount of Grumbine’s personal medications and a scale that his wife used to weigh bee’s wax. At one of the dispensaries, officers wrote “Merry Xmas.”

    Peaceful Innocence
    Prior to this precarious predicament, neither Grumbine, a peaceful organic gardener and nurseryman for botanic plants, nor Byron, a small restaurant owner, had never been arrested or charged with any crime. Both men were helping friends with cancer when their interest sparked in medical cannabis. They opened their clinics during the years 2008-2009, complying with California Attorney General guidelines and state law, paying taxes, and providing medicine to sick patients. In the spirit of compassionate use, Byron and Grumbine often gave medicine to people who couldn’t afford it. They spent a great deal of time with patients, providing food, clothing, wheelchairs and help with obtaining gainful employment. They built wheelchair ramps and gave bus passes to those who couldn’t afford to drive.

    Judicial Hell
    In Nov 2010 Grumbine and Byron rejected a felony plea deal and were charged in December with bails set at $240,000 and $320,000, respectively.
    Grumbine was charged with multiple counts of sales of a controlled substance and electricity theft. The theft charge was quickly dropped. Byron was charged with sales of a controlled substance, tax evasion and electricity theft. The electricity debacle was eventually found to be an error made by a hired construction worker. Throughout their ordeal, they persistently refused to plea bargain and steadfastly maintained their innocence.
    In November 2011, Judge Charles Sheldon granted the prosecution’s motion to deny a medical defense for Grumbine and Byron. But, in a very unusual move, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the defendants and their medical defense was allowed. Defense attorneys, Chris Glew and Allison Margolin requested a few days to subpoena witnesses in preparation of their newly granted defense, but Sheldon denied the request and the trial proceeded. Further hampering the defense team, Sheldon issued a gag order prohibiting them from speaking to the press.
    The medical marijuana community rallied behind Grumbine and Byron. On the 18-day trial, the courtroom was filled with passionate supporters. Peaceful protestors gathered and picketed outside the Courthouse.
    “Those people gave me strength to stay the course,” Grumbine said .
    The trial ended up being fraught with questionable actions or inactions by Sheldon.
    When the jury came back after a day of deliberation with guilty verdicts on all counts, defense council charged that the court was biased and that due process was denied. Declarations from numerous courtroom observers and articles from OC Weekly Magazine describing the numerous miscarriages of justice witnessed during the court proceedings were submitted for scrutiny. In addition, a copy of an inappropriate letter from Sheldon to Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano was included.
    In January 2012, to the astonishment of a packed courtroom, Sheldon admitted that he had acted inappropriately and recused himself, but he refused to lift the gag order. Sheldon allowed the defendants to remain out of custody on bail.
    The case was forwarded to Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, who ordered defendants Grumbine and Byron to return in April 2012. Cassani overturned the jury verdict stating that in her many years on the bench she had never seen such a “terrible trial.” She continued on to illuminate the many violations of due process and blatant biases. Judge Arthur Jean was selected to hear the new trial. Lawyer J. David Nick stepped in to defend Byron and public defender John Steinberg was appointed to represent Grumbine.

    Justice Prevails
    In February 2014, the District Attorney’s lawyer argued in the 2nd District Appellate Court that Cassani had no jurisdiction to issue her ruling. The panel sided heavily with the defendants and granted the new trial. On April 17, the District Attorney’s Office stated that due to the length of time, the appellate court ruling and changes to the law, they decided not to move forward with the case.
    “I am sort of in disbelief after five years of hell,” Grumbine lamented in an exclusive interview. “I’m broke and beat up, but sure glad to get it behind me. I don’t know if I will ever recover financially. This whole thing started out as a perfect storm with District Attorney Steve Cooley running for attorney general and publicly stating that he’s going to get rid of all these dispensaries. It was clearly politically motivated…. If we would have been able to present a proper defense, the jury would have never convicted me. Long Beach spent over 5 million taxpayer dollars in this fiasco. I just want my life back and the things that they stole.”

    The Silver Lining on a Black Cloud
    As a result of his devastating experience, Joe Grumbine founded the Human Solution to help others in this same type of predicament—that of complying with state laws but being persecuted in spite of it.
    More than 90 percent of all cases are settled in plea bargains, where innocent citizens waive their rights because of extremely excessive bail amounts and for fear of losing their children and/or being imprisoned for life, Grumbine said. The non-profit, grassroots organization focuses on this kind of legal harassment as a civil liberties matter. The group has grown into more than 25 U.S. chapters, plus one in Canada. They help prisoners locked up for cannabis charges and support all defendants willing to stand up for their rights.
    “When enough of us stand up and demand due process, this will all come to an end,” Grumbine summarized.
    The Human Solution can be contacted by emailing info@the-human-solution.org or by calling at (951) 436-6312.

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  • Yes, There’s a Problem. And, Yes, There’s a Solution

    By Matt Highland, Adjunct Staff Writer, Cal State University Long Beach Graduate Student

    I routinely receive surveys from various activist and party organizations asking me to prioritize and rank the most pressing issues facing the country.

    Since 2010, I have always answered with the exact same response: “Overturn Citizens United!”

    No matter what issues are particularly important to you, progress on them face the same common road block, the influence of big money.

    While Democrats have found a possibly effective line of attack for the next round of elections by focusing on the influence of the Koch brothers, Republican voters are quick to point to the liberal billionaire George Soros. Mother Jones puts 2012 election spending by Soros at $2.6 million, while the Koch brothers and their group Americans for Prosperity spent $38.9 million, making this a poor rebuttal. Still, this should not be a partisan issue. Polls show an overwhelming bipartisan majority support for reducing the influence of money in our elections.

    Recent scandals in the state legislature, such as the indictment of Democrat Leland Yee for exchanging political favors for campaign donations or the indictment involving a San Diego police detective and Washington D.C. lobbyist conspiring to funnel a Mexican national’s money into local elections to Republican and Democratic candidates, show that this is not a partisan issue. Wealthy interests seek to exert influence over policy makers, regardless of their party identification. Money flows to whomever holds power.

    In 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of money into the political system. With the recent McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the Supreme Court has further eroded restrictions on spending limits. The decision eliminated contribution limits and has left in place a system that’s ill-equipped to detect and prosecute outright bribery and corruption. There are few safeguards to prevent foreign interests from influencing our elections. Something has to give.

    People know there’s a problem, but fear there is no viable solution. With the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, the demand for something to be done is hitting a fevered pitch. There are widespread calls for campaign finance reform and public financing of elections among other approaches.

    Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito claim to be constitutional traditionalists, who do not believe it is a “living, breathing document.” They believe justices are not meant to interpret, but to strictly read, the Constitution. How is it that they can find corporations are people and money is speech while claiming to strictly read the Constitution without interpretation?

    Corporations are not people; money is not speech; and a Supreme Court ruling is not the last word. The Constitution is. The Supreme Court is tasked with the duty to uphold that Constitution and rule on a given case’s adherence or violation of it. We, the people, can undo this influence of money in our government by passing a constitutional amendment.

    Many individuals and organizations are now seeking to do just that. Organizations calling for a constitutional amendment include Common Cause, Democrats.com, Greenpeace, MoveOn.org, Move to Amend, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Root Strikers, and the Sierra Club, among many, many others.

    A student-led movement that began at UC Berkeley called Students United For Democracy has launched a campaign on 86 campuses in 31 states. Throughout the week of April 14 through 18, students across the country are passing resolutions in student governments calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. On April 14, students participated in rallies and educational events in support of reforming our elections and amending the Constitution.

    The movement is gaining ground. Elected officials are now circulating petitions and mobilizing voters around the issue. Sixteen states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment. Thirty-five senators and 114 members of the House of Representatives have gone on record supporting a constitutional amendment. Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as local Reps. Janice Hahn and Alan Lowenthal, are among those who support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    Students, elected officials, organizations and everyday citizens are uniting to give voice back to the people. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever party you belong to, take a stand for democracy and voice your support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    For more information on how you can get involved visit: www.united4thepeople.org, www. studentsunitedfordemocracy.org. or www.stopmccutcheon

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  • RLn ARTS: April 28, 2014

    May 1
    Explore the historical archives and interactive displays of the Satyr Motorcycle Club archive presentation, Rumble, May 1 through 10, at the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach.
    The group is the oldest, continuously running gay organization, with founding members from Long Beach to Los Angeles.
    Details: www.rumblela.info
    Venue: Cultural Alliance of Long Beach
    Location: 727 Pine Ave., Long Beach
    May 2
    Student Art Exhibition
    The Palos Verdes Art Center/Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education presents its Annual Student Art Exhibiton, an exhibition highlighting Peninsula student work, from May 2 through 25.
    The exhibit opens May 2, in the Yassin and Walker galleries of the Palos Verdes Art Center. A public reception is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. May 2.
    This exhibition will highlight recent artistic creations from three student groups associated with the Palos Verdes Art Center: Art At Your Fingertips, Partners in Art, and a selection of high school students from the Palos Verdes Unified School District. (more…)

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  • RLn THEATER: April 28, 2014

    May 3
    The Haumāna
    The Haumāna is showing, at 7 p.m. May 3, at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro
    The Haumāna is an award-winning independent film by Keo Woolford.
    When the charismatic host of a cheesy Waikiki tourist show accepts the challenge of leading a group of high school boys through the demanding discipline required for a traditional hula festival, he becomes as much a student as a teacher when he reconnects with the culture of Hawai`i he had abandoned.
    A Q-and-A with Keo Woolford and cast members will take place after the film.
    Tickets $10 in advance at brownpapertickets.com, or $15 cash at the door.
    Details: www.grandvision.org/calendar-details.asp?id=568
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre
    Location: 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro
    May 4
    Searching for Sugar Man
    Searching for Sugar Man will show, at 7 p.m. May 4, at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
    The film centers on the true story of Sixto Rodriguez. (more…)

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: April 28, 2014

    April 30
    YWCA’s 2014 Racial Justice Breakfast
    San Pedro – The YWCA is hosting a human trafficking panel, “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Adolescent Girls,” from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. April 30.
    There will be several guest speakers in attendance, ranging from The Long Beach Police department to survivor panelists.
    Details: (310) 547-0831; racialjuctice@ywcaharbor.org
    Venue: YWCA Auditorium
    Location: 437 W. 9th St., San Pedro

    May 1
    Rainbow Service Ribbon Cutting
    Join the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce the ribbon cutting of Rainbow Services, from 5 to 9 p.m.  May 1.
    Details: www.rainbowservicesdv.org
    Venue: Rainbow Services
    Location: 562 W. 8th St., San Pedro (more…)

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  • RLn COMMUNITY: April 25, 2014

    April 27
    Explore the Shore
    Explore the shore, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. April 27, at Cabrillo Beach.
    Join the “Walk Cabrillo” guided tour of the Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park. This free activity will include guided interpretation of inner Cabrillo Beach, saltmarsh, outer wave-swept sandy beach, and the tidepools at Point Fermin. Participants will learn about the cultural history as well as the natural history of the area. All will experience an informative and invigorating afternoon.
    Participants will meet in the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium courtyard.
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
    Location: 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    May 3
    Ride to Fly
    Ride to Fly’s annual country carnival will take place, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3, at the Empty Saddle Club in Rolling Hills Estates.
    Admission and parking is free to all. There will be activities for the entire family including pony rides, petting zoo, skill games, dunk tank, electronic bucking bull, silent auction, raffle and nonstop country music. Lunch and snacks will be available for a nominal fee. The event benefits the local therapeutic riding program.
    Details: www.MPHequineproductions.com (more…)

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  • RLn ENTERTAINMENT: April 25, 2013

    April 27
    Caress of Steel
    Caress of Steel will perform, at 4 p.m. April 27, at Alvas Showroom in San Pedro.
    Caress of Steel is a true 3 piece tribute band that performs an exact re-creation of a 1976-81 live era RUSH show. Complete with all of the “hits” such as Tom Sawyer, Limelight and Closer to the Heart, as well as rare gems that RUSH doesn’t even attempt anymore like Xanadu, Jacob’s ladder and Anthem.
    Formed in 1993 by lead guitarist Brian Montrey aka Almost Lifeson the band has been through various line-up changes throughout its 20 year career with the current MACH 4 version, the best in the history of the bands existence. Cost is $20.
    Details: (310) 833-3281; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom
    Location: 1417 W 8th St, San Pedro

    April 27
    Ambrosia will perform, at 6 p.m. April 27, at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
    Tickets start at $28.
    Details: (310) 548-2493
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre
    Location: 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro (more…)

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: April 25, 2014

    April 26
    LBPD Collects Prescription Drugs for Safe Disposal
    The Long Beach Police Department will join forces with Long Beach Memorial to collect prescription drugs for safe disposal, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26, at Long Beach Memorial.
    This initiative seeks to prevent increased pill abuse and theft through the collection of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs.
    The event will offer a drive-thru service that is free and anonymous. The driver of the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 100th participating vehicle will be awarded a pair of Aquarium of the Pacific tickets.
    Details: (562) 570-7221
    Venue: Long Beach Memorial 
    Location: 2801 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
    April 28
    ECC Presents STEM Week Celebration
    El Camino College will present its first Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Week April 28 through May 2.
    Students and guest speakers will demonstrate and communicate the opportunities and innovations found in these fields of study.
    The weeklong celebration is organized in conjunction with the opening of the college’s new STEM Center, scheduled for May 8. (more…)

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  • RL NEWS Updates

    Port Launches Emergency Landing Craft
    Long Beach — Port of Long Beach officials announced, April 24, the delivery of a refurbished and retrofitted landing craft to strengthen their emergency recovery capabilities.
    The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency donated the Landing Craft Mechanized Mark 8, or LCM-8 after it underwent 12 months of renovations to add cleaner engines, a salvage crane and a galley.
    The renovations cost $1.5 million and were primarily funded by the California Port and Maritime Security Grant Program.
    This craft will mainly be used by the port’s Security Division in support of disaster recovery operations and as the primary launch platform for the division’s dive team and multi-agency dive training.
    A hydraulic system with an 8-ton crane is mounted to the side of the vessel. The crane can be used to pluck vehicles out of the water and lower them into the well deck.
    A hallmark features of the LCM-8 is the “drop-down ramp.” This ramp can be lowered to allow emergency vehicles to drive from land directly onto the boat and back out again in case of a natural disaster that makes roads and bridges impassable.
    POLB is the West Coast with this kind of vessel, the POLB.

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  • LBPD: No Public Records Exist Pertaining to Medpot Raids

    In response to a series of Public Records Act Requests, the Long Beach Police Department claims no public records exist pertaining to the nearly 100 raids of medical-marijuana dispensaries it has conducted over the last four years.

    In response to allegations by several dispensaries that the LBPD has conducted numerous “warrantless raids,” Random Lengths News began filing Public Records Act Requests (PRARs) in an attempt to investigate. In response, as of November 2013 the LBPD stated that “approximately 88 search warrants [had been] served at marijuana dispensaries and related locations, of which about 76 of them came after the City placed a complete ban on marijuana dispensaries.”

    In response to RLn‘s follow-up clarification that the request was for the total number of enforcement actions and not merely those for which there were warrants, Records Coordinator Theressa Graham confirmed that “88 is the total number based upon available records.”

    So as to crosscheck whether the number of raids exceeds the number of warrants, RLn submitted a PRAR seeking a list of all enforcement actions taken by the LBPD between September 2009 and September 2013 as well as the pretext for each enforcement action (for example, “violation of LBMC 5.89,” Long Beach’s ban on dispensaries). But according to the LBPD, there is no public record containing such information.

    “There is no such public record documenting ‘enforcement actions’ taken against illegal ‘medical’ marijuana dispensaries,” the LBPD stated. “Enforcement action comes in a variety of forms, including by both patrol officers and detectives. Any police action related to a medical marijuana clinic may come in the form of a call for service at a neighboring location and, therefore, not attributable to the marijuana store on its face.”

    RLn then requested “any and all documentation of any sort pertaining to any and all enforcement actions or operations taken against medical-marijuana dispensaries” during the same time period. In response, the LBPD claimed that all pertinent documents are “investigative records [and therefore] exempt from disclosure under Government Code section 6254(f).”

    The LBPD also says it has not kept track of the number of man-hours its officers have spent conducting such enforcement operations.

    Government Code Section 6254(f) exempts from disclosure investigatory records, although among the disclosures required by Subsection 1 of the same chapter are “[t]he full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description […], the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, [and] the amount of bail set […] except to the extent that disclosure of a particular item of information would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation or would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation.”

    Numerous arrests were made during many of the at least 88 enforcement actions against dispensaries; however, the LBPD disclosed no arrest information.

    Subsection 2 of GC Sec. 6254(f) requires the disclosure of “the time, substance, and location of all complaints […] received by the agency and the time and nature of the response thereto, including, to the extent the information regarding crimes alleged or committed or any other incident investigated is recorded.” Nonetheless, the LBPD disclosed no information regarding complaints against dispensaries, although Chief Jim McDonnell, among other LBPD officers, have stated publicly on numerous occasions that some dispensaries have generated complaints.

    Although he says he supports the Compassionate Use Act, LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell has been an outspoken opponent of dispensaries in Long Beach, consistently pushing the city council to prohibit their operation. In December 2013 he attempted to dissuade the city council from its apparent movement toward passing an ordinance that will once again allow dispensaries to operate, claiming that doing so will “severely limit” his police force’s ability to combat crime.

    “We have been asked to devote more resources in the gang detail and the enforcement of realignment, prohibited possessors, property crime, and human trafficking,” he told the council. “Opening the door to marijuana dispensaries will severely limit our ability to respond to these and other items requested by the Council.”

    Chief McDonnell did not respond to RLn‘s query about how allowing dispensaries to operate would limit LBPD’s ability to combat these crimes.

    In an unrelated interview, RLn recently asked McDonnell about his philosophy in terms of the police department’s providing information to the press and public. “To be as transparent as we possibly can,” he replied. “I think the community has a right to know a lot of things, as much as we can share. [… W]ithin the bounds of what we’re allowed to, we try to be as open as we can be, because I believe that the more the public knows about the challenges we face and what we need from the community as far as them working with us, the more help there will likely to be.”

    *Note: According to Matthew Pappas, lead attorney in a lawsuit filed by multiple medpot collectives against the City of Long Beach alleging warrantless raids, prior to March 2012 the LBPD conducted “approximately 32 warrantless raids,” and that the City has in effect acknowledged that these were conducted sans warrants by failing to produce the pertinent warrants during the discovery process.

    “In discovery, the City has produced no warrants, zero, concerning those raids,” Pappas says.

    But Deputy City Attorney Howard Russell says this is untrue.

    “We typically don’t try cases in the press,” Russell told RLn, “but [Pappas’s] allegation is not accurate.”

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