Exclusive Interview: Medical Marijuana Defendant Joe Grumbine


Catrina Coleman
Joe Grumbine, The Human Solution: “We operated a collective. But the jury will never hear that part.”

​Medical marijuana patient and provider Joe Grumbine is currently fighting for his freedom, facing 13 felony counts in a Long Beach, California court.
Grumbine, who founded the activist group The Human Solution to provide court support for medical marijuana defendants, now needs that kind of support himself, as the clueless judge in his case barred him from using the medical marijuana affirmative defense.
The jury won’t be allowed to even hear that Grumbine was operating legally under California law; I predict 12 very angry jurors when they learn the truth.
Unless and until more medical marijuana providers are willing to stand up like Joe Grumbine has for medicinal cannabis laws and the patients they are designed to protect, innocent people will keep being caught up in legal nightmares like this one.
Toke of the Town had a chance to chat with this hero of the medical marijuana movement.

Medical Marijuana 411
Joe Grumbine: “The Human Solution came out of my realizing what a disaster our legal system is”

Toke: Tell me about the work you were doing, and the bust, which led to The Human Solution.
Grumbine: The Human Solution came out of my realizing what a disaster our legal system is, and that came after I was arrested in Riverside County over three years ago for transporting medicine from my collective and first faced felony charges (all charges were dropped in that case, after a lot of legal fighting). 
Unfortunately, the activist community was broken too, and nothing was happening at a grassroots level. I started speaking at group meetings and wherever anyone would listen. People began to listen and slowly leaders began to gravitate to me.
We began a letter writing campaign and formed the “California Coalition,” made up of members of OC NORML, OC ASA, MAPP, and others.  Then I met Ronnie Naulls, who was facing his own felony charges, and we decided to hold the first “Freedom Fighter’s Fundraiser.” The funds we raised eventually paid for the corporate filing of The Human Solution.  

The Human Solution
Handmade by patients with “love and aggression,” the Solidarity Ribbons show unity with prisoners of the Drug War.

Toke: The ribbon-wearing idea, in court, seems powerful. Tell me a little how that works, and the reactions you’ve gotten.
Grumbine: The Solidarity Ribbons have had an impact everywhere they are worn. They are noticed by the public, bailiffs, judges, jurors, and especially prosecutors.
Several DA’s have requested them to be removed from the court, but so far the judges have allowed them to stay. When we began we wanted to design and create a small tasteful symbol – something every supporter young and old would be comfortable wearing.
In court, there’s no doubt what the ribbons mean, even though there are no words on them. I think this is a primary reason that judges have allowed them to stay. They are a powerful symbol of unity between fellow supporters and with the defendant, yet they don’t overtly say anything.
They always cause comments and questions. I believe they have an impact in that they show judges and juries that defendants have supporters willing to publicly stand with them, something not seen in most court cases.
If nothing else the ribbons always inspire a feeling of amazement and gratitude from the defendant. I know when I was incarcerated and brought in shackles into the courtroom I only had about three seconds to scan the courtroom before being ordered to turn and face the judge.  Seeing that sea of green ribbons filling the seats gave me the strength to fight on.
This is far bigger than me and my case. I want every cannabis defendant to have that kind of support. The ribbons and The Human Solution’s “Green Team” (named by prosecutor Jeff Shunk) of court supporters have traveled throughout Southern California from Indio to San Luis Obispo and everywhere in between, wherever a medical cannabis defendant is facing charges.

Operation Green Rx

Toke: Why do you suppose certain elements of law enforcement seem so irrationally opposed to medical marijuana?
Grumbine: In many cases it’s nothing more than ignorance of the truth about cannabis and an unwillingness to listen or learn. But the bigger, uglier truth is that they make money from it.
We have a prison industrial complex in this country. We incarcerate more people than ANY other country in the world and half of them for non-violent drug offenses.
Cops get funding for making drug arrests, and who is easier to arrest than a medical marijuana provider? We’re not criminals, we’re patients helping other patients. We don’t get violent or don’t put up a fight. Then you get processed through the system, booked, arrested, incarcerated (or bailed out). Then there are court hearings. I’ve had to go to court over 45 times now — and pay my lawyer each time.
The judge, the bailiffs, the prosecutors, the investigating police officers, and everyone else associated with the case gets paid every time too. It’s an enormous gravy train at the citizen’s expense.
Neither my partner, Joe Byron, nor I have any previous convictions for anything, yet we have been fed into the sausage grinder of the legal system, and we will likely to be bankrupted by the time we get out. If we get out.
The latest in this absurd case is the judge denied us any medical defense.  We will be presented to the jury as ordinary drug dealers. We have no defense. We sold marijuana. We operated a collective. But the jury will never hear that part.
And the machine grinds on.

Toke: What’s next for you and for the Human Solution after your trial?
Grumbine: I can’t wait until I don’t have this trial hanging over my head, as I will have so much more time, energy and in theory, money to help others.
This is so much bigger than me. This about changing the world until we get to a place where nobody ever goes to jail for a plant. It’s a simple philosophy but that is the basis of The Human Solution.
Nobody should go to jail for a plant.
What’s in our future?  More court supports until they are no longer necessary. Lots of educating the public about the issues until nobody goes to jail for cannabis. After that, the sky’s the limit.
We are an active and passionate family of advocates. We actually have fun helping others and working together. Or members have strong bonds and camaraderie, so I don’t see us ever stopping.
The world will always need saving in one form or another, but for now, cannabis is our focus.

John Gilhooley/OC Weekly
The Weedly News

Toke: How long will it be until patients have safe access to cannabis nationwide?

Grumbine: I wish I had that crystal ball. I don’t even know when they will truly have safe access in California.
When a provider doing everything by the book can get arrested and is not allowed to present the fact that they are a legal under state law operation as a defense, access is not truly safe at all.
Toke: What would you like to say to the readers of Toke of the Town?
Grumbine: Just that we need more people to be active.
Things won’t change until it reaches a critical mass that our corrupt public officials can’t ignored. There needs to be protests outside every courthouse where a cannabis case is taking place.
I am begging people to come out and get active. It will take effort from everyone. Collectives and dispensaries need to realize that they could just as easily be facing charges – even if they followed the rules and did everything right. I did and I’m facing 13 felony counts.
If everyone came out and supported us, we wouldn’t be in this position. If you can’t come to a rally, then donate funds to get others there, or write letters to elected officials, judges, news media and anyone else who can make a difference.
There is always a way to help the cause, but most people sit back and wait for someone else to do it while their rights get taken away right in front of their eyes. If you want the right to use medical marijuana to continue, you have to get active.
It’s that important and that simple.