Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine Are Buds

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

Of the medical-marijuana dispensaries about to receive city permits, two are actually operating at the same addresses where Byron and Grumbine's collectives were located. Replacing Byron and Grumbine's planned marijuana-cultivation center is one run by an outfit called the NLB Collective. Another address where Byron and Grumbine were planning to grow marijuana is now being operated by an organization called the Airport Collective. As for the collective that Byron and Grumbine were running off Lakewood Boulevard? That address now belongs to a dispensary called the Industry Green Collective, which is next door to a cultivation center run by the same club.

"All these clubs are doing exactly what my client is being charged with doing," says Grumbine's defense attorney, Christopher Glew. "If there's something wrong with what he did, why did the city just target him and Joe [Byron] and not the rest of the clubs, or at least two or three of them? What these two guys are guilty of doing is going on all over the city right now, and what's crazier than that is the fact that it's actually being condoned by the city of Long Beach. The whole thing is just surreal."

*     *     *

As Byron and Grumbine wind up their breakfast at Egg Heaven, they reflect on the fact they've rejected repeated offers by prosecutors to settle the case before trial, a deal they claim would involve no further jail time. So far, they've refused because they don't want to plead guilty to felonies for doing something they don't believe is wrong.

"I've got American blood going back before the Revolutionary War," Grumbine says. "I was born an American citizen, and I value that and all the rights that have been given to me, and if I plead guilty to a felony, I lose a lot of those."

"We thought about taking a deal, but it just wouldn't be the right thing to do," adds Byron. "Maybe if the city apologizes and drops the charges to a misdemeanor."

That said, both men admit prosecutors have not only a strong case that they are guilty of dispensing marijuana, but an ironclad one at that. "There is no question that we had marijuana and were dispensing it," Grumbine explains "We're just saying we were doing that within the confines of the law. I look at the charges against us, and there is no basis for any of it. It's a fucking joke."

"You know," Byron interjects in a hushed voice. "What's really funny is there's a guy with the DA's office sitting right behind us." Everyone at the table turns around to see a middle-aged man with an olive complexion and slicked-back hair in a yellow shirt and tie reading a newspaper. It's unclear if the man has been eavesdropping during the entire conversation, or if he is just enjoying his eggs. Either way, the narc knows he's been caught.

He smiles. "Surf's up," he says. And everyone returns to his respective breakfast.


This article appeared in print as "Buds: Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine thought they were doing the people of Long Beach a favor by opening medical-marijuana dispensaries. Then they became targets in the city's weird war on weed."

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