The Incredible Shrinking Long Beach Marijuana Case

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On Thursday, the Weekly published a news story about the sorry state of affairs in Long Beach, where medical marijuana activists have recently resorted to filing a lawsuit against the city for enacting a March 20, 2010 cannabis club ordinance that has all but outlawed collectives in the city. As the story pointed out, although an overwhelming majority of Long Beach voters support taxing and regulating even recreational marijuana use, the city has yet to issue a single permit to any club in the city, despite collecting $15,000 non-refundable application fees from more than 30 such organizations.

As that story noted, the city's controversial ordinance, which one council member openly mocked as a "sham," came on the heels of a massive raid against 17 cannabis clubs in the city and Garden Grove. The Garden Grove collective, Unit D, was operated by Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, who also operated the Fourth and Elm collective in Long Beach, which was also raided. Fifteen people were arrested at the various clubs for felony marijuana charges, but so far, only Grumbine and Byron have actually been formally charged with any crime.

On Wednesday, after a year of freedom, Byron and Grumbine surrendered themselves at the Long Beach Superior Courthouse and were remanded to custody for a host of marijuana-transportation and tax-evasion charges. But before a packed courtroom this morning, Judge Judith L. Meyer reduced both men's bail, citing the fact that they'd cooperated with law enforcement officials ever since their arrest. However, Meyer refused a motion by the pair's defense attorneys, Alison Margolin and Chris Glew, to have their clients released on their own recognizance, stating that the allegation that they ran their two collectives for profit was serious enough to warrant $120,000 and $300,000 bail respectively.

Glew told the Weekly that prosecutors have already provided him with all their evidence in an effort to convince Byron and Grumbine to take a deal. The bulk of that evidence involves financial records that prosecutors believe show that the men failed to properly report all their sales to the California Board of Equalization. "Their whole theory of this case is that they were doing this for profit," Glew said. "They have no evidence of that whatsoever. They relied on their own numbers and calculated their figures out of thin air, when in fact they have nothing to support it. It's basically a political prosecution, because they arrested 17 people and have only charged two people and feel they need to get a conviction."

Glew also pointed out that his clients make unlikely targets for criminal prosecution because their collective actually provided medical marijuana to numerous low-income patients free of charge. "One of Joe Grumbine's main jobs was running humanitarian projects," he explained. "They did a lot of food drives, and had a list of patients they would go through to determine allocation of resources. Ninety-nine percent of what they did involved providing resources to those who can't get it anywhere else."

Glew added that while Grumbine was arrested in Riverside two years ago for marijuana charges, he was cleared of any wrongdoing. In court today, prosecutors also attested to the fact that neither Grumbine nor Byron had any criminal record whatsoever.

"If they could pick anybody in Long Beach to prosecute, they chose the wrong guys," Glew added. "We're making a stand on this case. These are the guys that are representative of the true intention of this whole industry and what it should be. That's who they are...They are the Mother Teresas of medical marijuana."

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