Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jun 2006
Source: Niles Daily Star (MI)
Copyright: 2006 Niles Daily Star
Author: John Eby, Niles Daily Star
Related: Rainbow Farm Memorial Website


NILES - On Labor Day weekend 2001, a week before it would be obscured 
by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an American civil liberties battle 
brewed in a small, blue-collar town in his native southwest Michigan 
unbeknownst to Dean Kuipers.

Kuipers grew up in Mattawan and remembers football scrimmages in Dowagiac.

 From Kalamazoo College, he went straight to New York and music 
journalism. Despite living in California, Kuipers subscribed to the 
Sunday Kalamazoo Gazette to keep connected with home.

And when he opened his newspaper and began reading the Rainbow Farm 
account, he was "shocked. I kept scratching my head," although he 
found the two central figures "fascinating. I wanted to go back and 
look at who those guys were," so he did - for four years.

The result, "Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in 
Smoke," published today by Bloomsbury ($24.95, 304 pages), attempts 
to tell the stories of marijuana activists Tom Crosslin and Rolland 
Rohm, shot and killed by the FBI and state police during a standoff 
at their 34-acre Newberg Township farm.

"There's this incredible arc from the way Rainbow Farm started out to 
how it ended," Kuipers, 42, said in a phone interview Monday 
afternoon from Los Angeles CityBeat on Wilshire Boulevard, where he 
is deputy editor.

This is the third book published by Kuipers, including "I'm a Bullet" 
(2000) and "Ray Gun Out of Control" (1997), about a music magazine he ran.

Kuipers is a longtime news feature and music journalist whose work 
has been published in the Los Angeles Times, for which he is a former 
staff writer, and Rolling Stone. CityBeat is a 100,000-circulation 
alternative weekly. He wrote the article Playboy published on Rainbow Farm.

During the course of a drug investigation begun in May 1999, 
detectives said in 2001 they found Rainbow Farm Campground "was being 
used to harbor open sale and use of numerous illegal drugs. In the 
past three years, the property had been the site of five festivals, 
bringing together musical bands, speakers for the legalization of 
marijuana, as well as hundreds and thousands of sellers and users of drugs."

Undercover officers were able to make repeated buys of numerous drugs.

At each festival, crowds were getting larger and the age of patrons 
was growing younger, with many small children witnessing acts of 
selling and using drugs by adults, according to the Michigan State Police.

"There's no arguing with that," Kuipers said. "These guys made some 
bad decisions. It was a bad idea to grow weed. They pushed the 
limits. They were not blameless."

"It appears these festivals were little more than an excuse for drug 
dealers to peddle their wares from a carnival booth instead of from a 
street corner. Illegal drug use is illegal, no matter the venue. I 
applaud Michigan State Police and Cass County's local law enforcement 
team for sending the message that West Michigan is not the nation's 
drug law enforcement-free zone," said Attorney General Jennifer M. 
Granholm, now Michigan governor.

Rainbow Farm was linked to the death of a Berrien County teen-ager 
killed April 21, 2001, in a crash into a school bus carrying Eau 
Claire High School's girls softball team. Konrad Joseph Hornack 
attended Rainbow Farms' 420 Marijuana Celebration Festival, according 
to Det. 1st Lt. Joseph P. Zangaro, South West Enforcement Team (SWET) 
section commander.

"The system wouldn't bend, and (Crosslin) was used to bending 
things," Kuipers said. "Teter wasn't going to bend, so (Crosslin) 
grew increasingly angry. Then it turned into a war."

Former prosecutor Teter, was interviewed for the book, as was Sheriff 
Joe Underwood.

"I believe (Crosslin) when he said he didn't want it to end that 
way," Kuipers said. "I'm from this area. The reality on the ground is 
always more complex. Those of us in the media tend to have to find 
ways to simplify things, like red and blue states. But people are 
complicated and their situations are complicated. Tom and Rollie 
were. They were gay. They voted Republican. Tom had a violent streak, 
a violent past, yet he's a peace-preaching hippie. It's pretty complex."

Despite knowing rural Michigan well, "People were not beating my door 
down to talk about this," Kuipers said - especially as a writer from 
Los Angeles. Some chastised him for dredging up a painful event.

Many talked to him reluctantly only "to have Tom's story told."

"They don't trust reporters," he said. "I had to go find them and it 
was hard work, bootstraps reporting. The Rainbow Farm story was 
really straightforward. The guys were complex, but what happened 
didn't need to be dressed up."

His publisher is promoting a "gripping true story of how a peaceful 
campground in rural Michigan became the setting for a five-day 
standoff with the FBI and a battle over the role of government in our 
daily lives."

Crosslin and Rohm in 1993 opened Rainbow Farm, a campground with the 
mission of advocating the decriminalization of marijuana.

Festivals that started in 1996 featured entertainers such as Tommy 
Chong and drew more than 5,000 blue-collar libertarians, hippie 
liberals, evangelicals and militiamen.

Ambitious Tom, gentle Rollie and their crew loved America, but not 
its war on drugs. The duo demonstratively disdained dealing pot and 
made their money in real estate, but their pro-pot stance put them at 
odds with authorities. When Rainbow Farm launched a statewide ballot 
initiative to change marijuana laws, those authorities began an 
all-out campaign to seize the farm using forfeiture statutes.

In May 2001, Tom and Rollie were arrested for growing marijuana in 
their home. Three hundred marijuana plants were confiscated from a 
hydroponic grow operation in their basement.

Teter's office filed charges against both men for manufacture of 
marijuana, maintaining a drug house and illegal possession of 
weapons, since as a convicted felon, Crosslin could not legally own a 
firearm. Three guns were found in the house.

Rohm's 11-year-old son was placed in foster care. Kuipers said Robert 
has since been adopted by grandparents and is now a youth pastor at his church.

Their anger mounted. On Friday of Labor Day weekend, Tom and Rollie 
failed to appear for a court date. They knew if they went to jail, 
they'd lose the farm. So Michigan's two most prominent hippies holed 
up at Rainbow Farm and defiantly burned the Pemberton Road property's 
10 buildings to the ground.

Firing upon a news helicopter - Kuipers believes Crosslin fired 
intentionally, thinking it was police - brought in the FBI.

Within five days both Crosslin, 46, and Rohm, 28, were dead.

"The FBI claims both men pointed their weapons first. Eyewitnesses 
say otherwise," according to promotional material for the book.

The FBI did not talk to Kuipers because the wrongful death civil suit 
filed by Rohm's estate against the prosecutor, state police and FBI, 
scheduled to go to jury trial in May and then delayed, is still pending.

On Jan. 7 2002, Teter released a 12-page report ruling the deaths 
"justifiable homicides."

The prosecutor said the FBI sniper "acted in a defensive mode and 
only after Crosslin raised a fully-loaded, semi-automatic assault 
rifle and pointed it at him from a distance of 22 feet away" did he fire.

"Shooting in the hand or in the leg works if you're the Lone Ranger," 
Teter said, "but it does not work in real life. The semi-automatic 
assault rifle is capable of firing high-powered rounds as fast as you 
pull the trigger. From 22 feet away, had Mr. Crosslin pulled the 
trigger from his waist instead of raising it up to his shoulder, an 
FBI agent would be dead now. It's that simple."

Dr. Stephen D. Cohle, forensic pathologist, identified five wounds to 
Crosslin's body. One was a fatal gunshot wound to the head.

In Cohle's opinion, it could not have occurred unless Crosslin's 
right arm was raised when the shot was fired.

A handwritten statement found at Crosslin's red brick home in 
Vandalia stated, "The time has passed for a peaceful solution to the 
nation's drug war ... The action we must take now is not what we 
wanted. We would have preferred a peaceful end to the drug war, but 
it was denied and they must live with the consequences. No longer are 
we talking peace ... Let the battle begin. Live with it."

Teter's investigation found Rohm intentionally set fire to the 
residence and fled the farmhouse carrying a fully-loaded military 
assault rifle while dressed in full camouflage, including black face paint.

"He ignored repeated instructions to surrender and drop his weapon. 
He had already fired at police personnel," Teter stated. "As Rolland 
Rohm tracked the light armored vehicle (LAV) movement through the 
smoke of the burning residence with his rifle, it was clearly 
apparent that his intention was to open fire on the vehicle when it 
cleared the smoke, making it visible to him."

"(Rollie) could have been saved," the author believes. "He was very 
loyal to Tom. His death was very confusing and didn't make sense, 
with lots of contradictory ballistics. I came away from it that it 
was all a miscommunication. Rollie was tired, angry and confused and 
maybe put himself in a posture where they took him out." 
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