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Rainbow Farm was a pro-marijuana campground in Newberg Township, Cass County, Michigan, that was involved in a fatal police standoff on September 3, 2001. The campground was run by Tom Crosslin and his life partner Rolland "Rollie" Rohm, and was home to two annual festivals, "HempAid" and "Roach Roast", which ran from 1996 through 2001. The operation ended with the burning down of all the structures on the property and the deaths of both Tom Crosslin and Rolland Rohm.
Beginning in 1996, the two annual Rainbow Farm events, "HempAid" (on Memorial Day) and "Roach Roast" (on Labor Day), were part Woodstock, part union picnic. They were family-oriented affairs, with Rohm's son, Robert, wheeling his golf cart among the soft-drink stands and hemp clothing vendors and representatives from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Guests included Tommy Chong of "Cheech and Chong" fame, High Times editor Steve Hager, Merle Haggard, members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and John Sinclair, the White Panther Party jefe and MC5 manager who, in 1969, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for marijuana possession. Most of these guests, unlike Crosslin or Rohm, could trace a lineage to radicalism of the 1960s, when they played to a more engaged audience. The legal loophole that Crosslin used to hold these gatherings without sparking mass arrests was that he, his employees and the concessionaires who paid to be a part of the festival sold absolutely no drugs.
These events from 1996 through 2001 made Rainbow Farm the center of marijuana activism in Michigan. It was listed by High Times magazine as "fourteenth on the list of twenty-five Top Stoner Travel Spots in the world".
Investigation and arrests
Rainbow Farm was the focus of an investigation by Cass County prosecutor Scott Teter. A Rainbow Farm festival was linked to the death of a Berrien County teenager killed April 21, 2001, after his car crashed into a school bus carrying Eau Claire High School students. After a few months of unsuccessfully trying to gather evidence using undercover police officers, the investigation eventually came to a head in early May 2001, when Michigan State Police troopers served a tax-fraud warrant and found more than 200 marijuana plants.
Tom and Rollie were arrested on felony manufacture and weapons charges, and Rollie's son, Robert, was taken into foster care. Crosslin was charged with felony possession of a firearm, growing marijuana and maintaining a drug house. He faced 20 years in prison and was out of jail on a $150,000 bail bond, as the state was moving to seize Rainbow Farm under civil asset forfeiture proceedings. During this time Crosslin publicly violated his bail agreement by announcing that he would throw another festival.
In August 2001, Crosslin and Rohm failed to appear at their appointed court date, and set fire to a building on their property.
Throughout Labor Day weekend, according to law enforcement accounts, Crosslin and Rohm systematically burned down the ten structures on their farm, shot at and hit a news helicopter filming the fires, shot at and missed a police surveillance plane, and sprayed the woods bordering the 34-acre (140,000 m2) property with gunfire to keep police at bay. Crosslin and Rohm also began procuring assault rifles and claiming that the farm had been mined and booby-trapped.
The standoff began when deputies went to the farm after neighbors said Crosslin was burning buildings on his property. Believing they were outgunned, the local authorities called in the FBI. The state police and FBI agents surrounded Crosslin's house on August 31; with snipers in the woods watching the house.
Crosslin and Rohm fired several times at the police, striking an armored vehicle. They also fired on and struck the rear stabilizer of a local news helicopter containing two civilians.
On September 2, Crosslin walked into the woods on his farm, and while walking back he spotted an FBI agent lying on the ground. Crosslin raised his rifle and was shot in the forehead and died instantly. The autopsy report said Crosslin was shot five times in the head, and three times in the torso.
That morning, at 3:45 a.m., Rohm asked that his son be brought to see him and told police that if he was, he would surrender at 7 a.m.. Shortly after 6 a.m., a fire was reported at the Rainbow Farm residence. While walking outside the house Rohm was shot dead by another police marksman.
A third man, Brandon J. Peoples, suffered minor injuries when Crosslin was shot and was questioned by authorities.
- 1993: Tom Crosslin buys the property for Rainbow Farm in Vandalia, Michigan. The farm begins holding annual "hemp festivals."
- 1996: Scott Teter is elected Cass County prosecutor.
- 1999-2000: Rainbow Farm campaigns for the Personal Responsibility Amendment, a failed measure that sought to legalize private use of marijuana.
- 2001 - April: Rainbow Farm is linked to the death of a Berrien County teenager killed April 21, 2001, after his car crashes into a school bus carrying Eau Claire High School students.
- 2001 - May: Early on the morning of May 9, some 30 state police officers raid Rainbow Farm.
- 2001 - August: Crosslin and Rohm skip their court date and set fire to a building on their property.
- 2001 - September 3, Crosslin and Rohm are killed.
- Spivak, Joshua (July 23, 2006). "Tragedy befalls a pot promoter". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "Reefer madness". Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "Police Kill Second Suspect In Standoff at Michigan Farm". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "F.B.I. Kills Man in Standoff". The New York Times. September 4, 2001. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "Campground standoff ends with second man dead". Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Kuipers, Dean (2006). Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke. Bloomsbury. ISBN 1-59691-142-5.
- Memorial Site for Rainbow Farm: Vandalia, Michigan
- Pictorial Tribute to the Freest place on earth
- A Festival Utopia: Rainbow Farm, five years after the flames by Rob Robinson
- In-Depth 2003 Playboy Article
- NPR audio interview with Dean Kuipers, author of 'Burning Rainbow Farm'