Hundreds gather at Willow Creek Springs to celebrate Freedom Fighter Festival 3
By Sam Sabzehzar
During the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders last month, a new Freedom Fight has emerged marking the resurgence of a cross-generational act of civil disobedience.
Groups like the ACLU and the NAACP understand the disparaging race-related statistics reflecting a violation of civil rights for those who are part of a new group of people: those involved in medical marijuana.
Joe Grumbine created a blissful environment at his home, turning his 2.5 acre property into the garden known as Willow Creek Springs.
He is also one of the founders of The Human Solution, a non-profit group helping medical marijuana patients and providers who are caught in the cross hairs of America’s War on Drugs.
Joe also helped provide medicine to qualified patients and is one of those the state has decided to focus on.
There was even a police raid at his sanctuary at Willow Creek Springs and charges have been brought against him.
Because of this, The Human Solution’s third Freedom Fighters Festival and Fundraiser raised funds for Joe’s defense fund.
“No one should ever go to jail for a plant,” says Joe. “In my case, they spent tax payer funded undercover police officers into my collective and followed the law so that we could provide them with medicine unknowingly. Had they told us they were police officers and still had a valid recommendation we still may have provided them with the medicine they need.”
Instead, they remained undercover on eleven other occasions and mounted twelve charges of sales against Mr. Grumbine and his partner, Joe Byron.
“We’re fighting for what’s right, not just for our freedom but for the freedom of our kids and grandkids who hopefully never have to know what plant prohibition is like,” says Mr. Grumbine. “This is a family friendly event, with clowns, games, animals, music, dancing, raffles, and lot of fun, but it’s also a way for us to communicate in a language to everyone here that there are real injustices going on and we have a platform to say that from.”
Their lawyers, Allison Margolin, fresh off a win in San Fernando with similar circumstances where her client (David Rios) was found not guilty on all counts (ironically the next business day after this event), and Chris Glew, who also had a recent win in Orange County several weeks back, hope to see another victory.
“Patients and providers who see charges against them need to fight them,” explains Ms. Margolin.
In fact, many steps forward have been taken because of a victory in the courts, so many see the court system as the new battleground in the war on drugs as it is being applied to those in medical marijuana states.
Because of this new fight, many in the civil rights movements of the past have joined with Joe and Joe.
Madaleine Johnson, who marched alongside Martin Luther King, and continues to help register voters to this day, made the journey out to the day’s event, and was reminded of the activism from forty and fifty years ago.
“Obama was right. Dr. King would not have endorsed him. But President Obama can be like the Kennedy’s during the civil rights fights and make law enforcement protect us, or he can let them attack us like the politicians of the deep south.”
“A new type of fire hose is being used, and instead of physical beatings, it’s psychological beatings against us, and it’s economic war their waging when they do this to any of us,” Joe reminds us. “But it’s even more reprehensible when it’s against patients who are already sick… making them even have to defend themselves is a inhumane treatment but the attacks from the state continue.”
Another fighter from a previous war, Lanny Swerdlow, RN, who has created a farmer’s market for medical cannabis growers and invite patients to attend every week, was one of the many speakers to grace the stage.
“One of the biggest mistakes our generation made was that we stopped smoking pot. We helped end the war in vietnam and we never tried to help stop the war on us,” referring the the war on drugs.
Other speakers include Stephanie Landa, who was instrumental in gathering court support for David Rios. Her group, Landa Prison Outreach Program(LPOP), continues to provide support to those who are current POWs and are in jail.
LPOP also had a booth at the festival and helped gather messages of support on cards and letters and will send them to patients and providers “locked up upwards of 25 years in California, and some for life in other states.”
Dr. Christopher Fichtner, who donated copies of his book to The Human Solution, spoke about briefly about his book, Cannabinomics, which underscores the idea that “Americans are by and large ready for this change now but haven’t had the vocabulary to articulate it.” Dr. Fichtner takes a microscope to “real life medical cases, recent trends in successful policy reform, drug war costs and the potential economic benefits of cannabis change.”
His perspective for this theory is from the place most of ‘by and large Americans’ need to receive it from. Taken from his book’s website, Dr. Fichtner “has clinical and administrative public mental health experience in federal (U.S. Veterans Affairs), state and county systems, and served as state mental health director for Illinois from 2003 to 2005.”
“Observations at the interface of behavioral health and criminal justice convinced Dr. Fichtner that the war on drugs has done more harm than good, and has become a major public health problem in its own right.”
Other guests include Mieko Hester Perez, who has fought for her son’s life and saved it through the use of medical cannabis. Her son, Joey, has severe autism and has a better quality of life because of marijuana.
A better quality of life is all patients are looking for, and every step towards making something better usually comes with a struggle. Adopting the practices of the non-violent struggle of the civil rights movements allows us all to strive for a better quality of life today, and for generations to come.
Sam Sabzehzar is a filmmaker and journalist, as well as one of the Co-founders of MedicalMarijuana411.com, a site dedicated to the human story side of the medical marijuana movement. He is currently working on several documentaries for Medical Marijuana 411 featuring several people featured in this story, including Mieko Hester Perez and Joe Grumbine.