2011-09-16 "Long Beach protesters rally against pot cases" by Tracy Manzer from "Long Beach Press-Telegram" newspaper
LONG BEACH - Close to 100 protesters gathered outside the Long Beach Courthouse on Thursday morning with wheelchairs, walkers and little green ribbons.
Shouting slogans like "No jail for a plant" and "Legalize not legal lies," the group rallied for several hours in support of Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron, former operators of medical marijuana collectives in Long Beach and Garden Grove who were inside the courthouse for pretrial motions.
Grumbine and Byron are charged with 13 felony counts for illegal sales of marijuana following a December 2009 raid of their clinics, a charge they dispute under Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana law.
"Forty years ago tens of thousands of people marched on Washington to protest ... the draft," Grumbine said to the large group assembled outside the courthouse.
"That's starting to happen again ... no one should go to jail for growing a plant."
Among those who came to show their support for the pair were attorneys, military veterans, elderly patients and hip urban youths. They drove from as far north as Kern County and as far south as San Diego.
"We're going to unite the people to change the laws in Long Beach like we have in Kern County," California Clemency Project founder Jeff Clark declared over a bullhorn. "It is the law and we are patients and we are voters."
Clark wore a neon green and black shirt with a marijuana-leaf motif. Pinned to his chest, and all the other protesters' shirts, was a green ribbon with a small red cross in the center. The wiry veteran vowed the protests, and his work in writing clemency petitions, will not stop until the arrests cease.
"Don't piss off a bipolar Vietnam vet with a bullhorn," he said.
Event organizers said another 40 people were in the courtroom to show their support for the defendants during the motions hearing.
Attorneys for both sides of the case are scheduled to return to the court next Thursday for another pretrial conference. The trial is tentatively scheduled for mid-November, Grumbine said.
"That gives us more than a month and a half to organize," he said.
Stephanie Landa, founder of the Landa Prison Outreach Program for people convicted in medical marijuana cases, was there to help organize the rally.
She said she recently served four years in prison for a federal conviction for running a clinic in San Francisco, a clinic she said she operated with the permission of local authorities.
"I'm 65 so it wasn't cool," Landa said of her time behind bars.
"We're not criminals, we are following state law," she added. "We just want justice."
A group of protestors in favor of medical marijuana rallied outside the Long Beach Superior Courthouse Thursday morning. (Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)