By Cheri Sicard
If you had told Joe Grumbine five years ago that he would end up shackled in chains and hauled off to LA County jail, he wouldn’t have believed you. After all the fourty four year old Grumbine had never experienced a single run-in with the law in his entire life.
A peaceful man, organic gardener, and the director of a philanthropic organization that provides education and assistance to patients in need, Grumbine now finds himself facing multiple felony charges, serious jail time, and a lengthy expensive trial in LA Superior Court. Why? He provided medicine to sick people.
“What’s so frightening about the whole situation,” says Joe, “is that this could happen to anyone.”
Joe’s wife Liz agrees. “Life took a turn and we suddenly found ourselves on the front lines.”
A lifelong student of the healing properties of natural herbs, Joe Grumbine has taught classes on medicinal herbs and organic gardening techniques for the past 20 years. It was while working with cancer and AIDS patients that he first began to realize the extraordinary healing properties of cannabis. The catalyst that finally spurred Grumbine and partner Joe Byron to open a medical marijuana collective back in 2008 was the death of a close friend to brain cancer. “I saw how a few drops of cannabis tincture under his tongue provided relief where morphine failed,” says Grumbine, “and I knew others who could also benefit from this incredible healing plant.”
So he started researching the law he had voted for back in 1996 – California’s Prop. 215 that authorized the medicinal use of marijuana with a physician’s recommendation.
“Getting in trouble with the law was something we never envisioned because we read and understood the law,” says Grumbine. “We followed the law and trusted that we were protected by the law. That’s what laws in America are supposed to do. We couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Grumbine says his collective followed the rules and beyond, including setting up a nonprofit corporation and paying California state taxes. They also provided low and no cost medicine to patients who couldn’t afford it and even established a patient outreach program that helped those in need with things like food, transportation,wheelchairs, and medical equipment.
The Ordeal Begins
Grumbine’s current ordeal began in 2008 when a Riverside County sheriff pulled him over while he was transporting medicine from the collective. After 17 trips to court and four prosecutors the case was ultimately dismissed with the court finding that “Mr. Grumbine was acting in accordance with California Law.”
Life went back to normal for Joe, for exactly five weeks. That’s when a terrifying SWAT style raid took place involving 120 officers storming 17 locations, including the collective’s grow, Byron’s restaurant and real estate business, and the homes of employees, volunteers, and Grumbine himself. He and his wife Liz and daughter Candace were handcuffed for hours and held at gunpoint, helplessly watching their house get trashed
Seventeen people were arrested that day including volunteers, employees and even some construction workers who just happened to be contracted to do some building work. Grumbine was able to borrow money from an uncle to post his $25K bail. A year went by with no charges filed, until December 2010 when only Grumbine and Byron were charged with multiple felonies including tax evasion and illegal drug sales. Despite neither having any prior convictions for anything and completely cooperating with the authorities the entire time, their bail was increased to $260K and $340K bail respectively before a second hearing reduced it to $120K and $300K.
Grumbine believes the excessive bails, more than the county recommends for rapists, kidnappers, and child molesters, is one of the system’s way of bullying defendants into taking plea bargains. As long as there is any kind of conviction, it goes down as a win in the district attorney’s books. But because he steadfastly maintains he hasn’t done anything wrong, a felony plea bargain is not an option Joe Grumbine is willing to consider. “I’ve worked too long and too hard for others stuck in this impossible situation to give up now,” he says.
The Human Solution
Many of those Grumbine helped, along with new marijuana advocates attracted by the injustice of his case, came to his aid. The courtroom during Grumbine and Byron’s bail hearing and bail reduction hearing overflowed with supporters. Members of the education and advocacy group Grumbine founded, The Human Solution, dug into savings and retirement accounts to come up with the money to get their leader out of jail. He was overwhelmed by the kindness and moved to tears, but it’s not surprising for a man so loved to have such support. Grumbine’s own attorney, Christopher Glew, (www.glewkimlaw.com) calls his client the “Mother Theresa of medical marijuana.”
Indeed The Human Solution (www.the-human-solution.org) is one of Joe Grumbine’s proudest accomplishments. He says the group puts the action in advocacy, providing education and support to cannabis patients, caregivers, and the community at large.
The group offers classes and workshops, publicly addresses local governments, law enforcement agencies, and civic groups, and helps organize court support and raise funds for those trapped in the legal quagmire of the justice system surrounding medical marijuana. When he set out to help others, Joe Grumbine never dreamed that he would be the one most in need of the support.
How You Can Help be the Solution
Both Joe and Liz Grumbine concur that the hardest part of their ordeal has been watching close friends and family members abandon them out of fear. “You lose people who have been with you your entire life,” says Liz. “Then God sends you angels like the volunteers of The Human Solution, who have been amazing. It’s a journey, I have to take it as that.”
While Human Solution members remain supportive, much more help is needed. Grumbine faces huge legal fees and and a lengthy court battle, after already having cash and other assets seized during the raid and depleted by posting bail. He needs to raise about $3500 before the start of his February 7’th preliminary hearing and upwards of $30,000 to cover attorneys fees through the upcoming jury trial. Lead attorney Christopher Glew has been most generous in working with Joe and allowing for payments, but help from any interested attorneys, paralegals or qualified researchers on this case is desperately needed. Time and talent are always needed at The Human Solution as well including writing, research, fund raising, public relations and more.
One of the most important things the public can do to help is client, according to attorney Christopher Glew, is to show up in Long Beach Superior Court for the start of Grumbine’s preliminary hearing on February 7. It’s important for the judge to know the public is watching what happens with this case. The preliminary hearing is set set for Feb 7 at 8:30am long beach courthouse
The Human Solution is currently running a tamale drive to help raise funds for Joe. Fresh tamales along with rice, beans and homemade cookies will be delivered to your door. Those interested in ordering or otherwise donating to the cause or volunteering should call 951-436-6312 or contact The Human Solution through their website at www.the-human-solution.org.
Through it all, Joe Grumbine has remained optimistic. “I am determined to take the tragedy of this legal case and turn it into a tool to bring awareness and change. I refuse to be a martyr but hope to be an inspiration to reach deep and find the true American that lies deep inside each of us. Together we can make the needed change!”