Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke

Bloomsbury USA, 2006

On the Labor Day weekend before September 11, 2001 a battle for American civil liberties was taking place in a small, blue-collar town in southwestern Michigan. BURNING RAINBOW FARM: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke (Bloomsbury) tells the 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.

In 1993, Tom Crosslin and his partner Rollie Rohm opened Rainbow Farm, a well-appointed campground and concert venue with a mission: to advocate the decriminalization of marijuana. Rainbow Farm festivals featured top entertainers like Tommy Chong and Merle Haggard and drew over 5000 blue-collar libertarians, hippie liberals, evangelicals, and even the occasional militiaman. Ambitious Tom, gentle Rollie, and their crew loved America but they didn’t like its War on Drugs. The duo had never dealt pot; they made their money in real estate, but their pro-pot stance put them at odds with the local authorities. When Rainbow Farm festivals helped launch a popular statewide ballot initiative to change marijuana laws, those authorities began an all-out campaign to seize the farm as property used for “drug crime.”

Tom and Rollie were arrested in May 2001 for growing marijuana in their home and Rollie’s 11-year-old son was placed in foster care. Their anger mounted, and on the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, Tom and Rollie didn’t show up for a court date. If they were jailed, they’d lose the farm to Drug War forfeiture laws, so the state’s two best-known hippies holed up at Rainbow Farm and defiantly burned the deluxe property to the ground. The FBI came in and within five days Tom and Rollie were dead.

Dean Kuipers investigates exactly what happened during the years leading up to that explosive weekend. Through interviews with friends, family, law enforcement officials and farm employees, Kuipers tells their whole story for the first time, which was obscured by the events of September 11. Americans of all political stripes discuss the role of government and our personal freedoms; BURNING RAINBOW FARM is a celebration of a utopian dream and a sober warning for our times.