Drug Policy

End of the Rainbow


Despite what pot smokers say, it's not true that marijuana never killed anybody. It killed Grover Crosslin and Rolland Rohm.

Crosslin and Rohm were shot to death during a five-day standoff with police at the Rainbow Farm Campground in Vandalia, Michigan. Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood Jr. said the men, who lived at the campground together and were free on bail after being arrested in May on drug charges, had both aimed guns at law enforcement officers.

The confrontation began on August 31, when Crosslin, Rainbow Farm's owner, started setting fire to buildings at the campground, which the government was planning to seize through civil forfeiture. During the standoff, shots were fired at a news helicopter and a police airplane.

This outburst of violence belies marijuana's image as a drug of love and understanding–the image that Rainbow Farm, a notorious haven for pot smokers, sought to promote with its peace signs and dancing bears. Advertised as a place where "families with alternative lifestyles can relax comfortably and privately in the beautiful rolling hills of Southwestern Michigan," the campground brazenly appealed to hedonists by proclaiming, "At Rainbow Farm FUN is still legal."

In case you didn't get its subversive message, Rainbow Farm openly admitted that it supported marijuana legalization. The "Alternative Campground & Concert Arena" regularly hosted events such as HempAid and RoachRoast, the very names of which were an affront to decent, drug-free people everywhere.

The name of Rainbow Farm's "coffee bar" was The Joint, its logo an obscenely fat marijuana cigarette. The campground also had a Hemp Gift Store and a shop called Smoke World that sold "pipes and accessories," ostensibly "for use with tobacco and legal herbal blend products."

A disclaimer on the campground's Web site insisted that "Rainbow Farm DOES NOT promote the use of illicit drugs by anyone." Who did they think they were fooling?

Naturally, the authorities could not tolerate the sort of "alternative lifestyle" practiced at Rainbow Farm. During a two-year undercover investigation, state and local agents posing as hippies bought marijuana from people attending events at Rainbow Farm. "You would be amazed," one officer told the South Bend Tribune last May. "You go in there, [drug use] is just everywhere."

The police shot videotape that documented the shameless behavior of Rainbow Farm's customers. "In one scene," the Tribune reported, "a man handed a bag of marijuana to another. Then, a group of people was openly passing a marijuana cigarette as toddlers played nearby." There were also reports of nudity and outdoor sex–none, of it, unfortunately, caught on videotape.

The investigation resulted in six arrests. Crosslin and Rohm were charged with manufacturing marijuana, operating a drug house, and felony possession of firearms–offenses that carry sentences totaling more than 20 years. The government closed down the campground, put Rohm's 12-year-old son in a foster home, and began forfeiture proceedings to seize the 34-acre property.

Sheriff Underwood described Crosslin as "agitated" by these developments, and Crosslin's sister said he was "very angry with the government and the way they have done things." But how long did he think he could continue offending his neighbors' sensibilities?

"These guys weren't exactly growing corn," observed Charles Giacona, vice president of the Right to Decency, a group based in Warren, Michigan. A Vandalia resident told The Detroit News the confrontation "was coming for years, with those people out there advertising marijuana. They were rubbing the cops' noses in it."

Rainbow Farm's defenders (believe it or not, there are some) offered the usual lame excuses. "These people weren't hurting anybody," said one (probably a pot smoker himself) after the arrests in May. What about the children?

Another likened the forfeiture of Rainbow Farm to "stealing"–ridiculous, because stealing is illegal. Some even suggested that people had a constitutional right to gather at Rainbow Farm in protest of the war on drugs–as if the First Amendment had anything to do with getting together to complain about the government.

During the standoff, Crosslin's father warned that his son apparently felt some sort of principle was at stake. "When he believes in something," he told the Associated Press, "he's going to take it all the way to the end." Vandalia Mayor Sondra Mose-Ursery explained that Crosslin thought "he should be able to do what he wants on his own property." It's amazing what people will believe after they've smoked enough dope.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Creators Syndicate Inc.


NOTE: If you think the government ought to leave pot smokers alone, please do not send an angry message to Jacob Sullum. He agrees with you. This column is a satirical critique of the war on drugs.