The two thought they were doing the people of Long Beach a favor. Then they became targets in the city’s weird war on weed
By NICK SCHOU
Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine face each other as the two sit on opposite sides of a booth table at Egg Heaven, the popular Long Beach breakfast eatery that the towering, ruddy-complexioned Byron—this morning wearing a somewhat-pained smile—has owned for the past 17 years. Grumbine is shorter, with wavy shoulder-length hair, and is wearing a billowy, white, button-down shirt that has a green ribbon with a red cross pinned to it, the symbol of his medical-marijuana activist group, the Human Solution. Both men poke at their eggs as they struggle to make sense of the fact they’re talking to a reporter about something that, while apparently illegal for them to do, isn’t illegal for a bunch of other people to do. That, at least, seems to be the moral of the Kafkaesque riddle that has become their lives, one that tends to put a dent in one’s appetite and makes one’s brain hurt even if one has had a few cups of coffee.
On June 17, Byron and Grumbine will be put on trial at the Long Beach Courthouse of Los Angeles Superior Court for dispensing medical marijuana to members of their cannabis collective—that is, they sold the pot to qualified patients who showed up at their storefront and presented valid California driver’s licenses and legitimate recommendations from licensed physicians saying they were medical-marijuana patients whose right to obtain and smoke cannabis is protected under state law. The only problem: The patients in question turned out to be undercover police officers who were part of a major operation aimed at taking Byron and Grumbine out of the medical-marijuana trade and sending them to prison. If convicted of selling marijuana, each man faces seven years in state prison.
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