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Camera Phone Confiscated in Medical Marijuana Case, Judge Bans Journalist

Daily Dose 2011-02-11 0 comments

"All marijuana is subject to sales tax," according to the Board of Equalization, while a 'use tax' is to be applied for medicine given away for free. (Photo credit:

In a not-so-surprising turn of events in the courtroom that is hosting the scene of the crime; wasting tax dollars trying to convict two honest and innocent men, Judge Jesse Rodriguez pulled out all the stops when was again denied media access.

After being granted the right to shoot video and take pictures by Judge Judith Meyer, the entire case was sent back upstairs for the fifth and final time when Judge Rodriguez denied our journalist the right to shoot anything on the first day, citing ‘incorrect paperwork.’

Because of multiple judges, the paperwork submitted originally only had the Judge Meyer’s information, as the new room, department, and Mr. Byron and Mr. Grumbine’s courtroom was only finalized moments before Judge Rodriguez’s media denial.

On day two, our paperwork was in order and our cameras were allowed in the courtroom, but only still photography was to be allowed.

That brings us to day three.

A still camera and a video camera are built into the same body these days, especially on phones.  After several phone follies, the court was in no mood for anything having to do with a phone.

Still photography was granted to this media outlet and a picture was taken with one of our phone cameras for quick upload.

This infuriated Judge Rodriguez and repeatedly reminded us that only still photography was allowed and instructed the bailiff to confiscate our camera and delete any media.

There was also video on the phone that was taken prior to the judgement, but because they recognized one of the audience members they assumed our video was in violation of our media agreement, threatening to hold our journalist in contempt of court (special thanks to Ms. Allison Margolin for helping to keep our journalist out of jail).

No point giving the judge any juice though, but we were able to make it into the record that the previous judge granted us video access, but we were also removed from the courtroom and banned for the remainder of the preliminary hearing.

These days, new media is essential for many of America’s businesses.  To be in a United States courtroom, one of our branches of government’s… living rooms, and have a journalist’s camera confiscated and photos deleted is not the America our branches of government are supposed to protect, especially when we are seen as the fourth branch of government.

Perhaps he knows this case is less complicated than Cooley cares to admit; today, for example, and following suit for the third day in a row, prosecuting attorney Ryan Dibble once again can’t seem to find a witness that can prove his case.  So much so that, out of frustration, Judge Rodriguez questioned Dibble’s own witness for him only to find out that the defendant in question had been cooperating with the State Board of Equalization prior to the city sicking their teeth in a bone with no meat.

If the city was tasked with finding a model medical marijuana collective to hold up to exemplify, the efforts of Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron would be top on the list. From free classes to free food, free medicine and even free wheelchairs, the Compassionate Use Act and subsequent models for medical marijuana dispensing were still finding ways to communicate, and in fact still are.

Long Beach is the perfect example; The People Vs. Joe is a tragic tale of tax dollars spent unwisely but the district attorney and the city of Long Beach Police Department.  City Council just finished regulations after starting the process back in 2008, and this is after already changing an ordinance that had been approved by the very council that changed it.

Joe, with his wife Liz, outside the Long Beach Superior Courthouse.

As Mr. Grumbine said outside the courtroom earlier, “think about all the productivity that this time spent could’ve been used for.  Instead of doing something that ultimately makes the state money, they are still resisting the inevitable and instead of letting Joe (Byron) finish communicating with the BOE (Board of Equalization) to pay off any other tax debts that might be outstanding.

One day, the undercover officers that spent our money and their time going into a doctor’s office will think back and remember what it was like to go after patients for consuming cannabis.

To hear someone from California’s State Board of Equalization say “marijuana is subject to sales tax” while at the same time Steve Cooley, the District Attorney pursuing this to his bitter end, says “all sales are illegal” puts the state in a bind.

They already lost this case (it’s just needing to finish playing out, and spend some more of our money), but if they want to try to go after anybody else before the inevitable change-over to politicians being on the pro-medical cannabis side they will need to communicate with each other so each part knows how they influence the whole.