Sunday, September 01, 2002
A high-profile American fugitive facing drug charges in B.C. has been granted the right to smoke and grow huge quantities of marijuana -- for medical purposes.
The case is being described as a direct attack on America's anti-drug policy and a move that will trigger a flow of "pot refugees" from south of the border.
Steve Kubby, who fled with his family to the Sunshine Coast to avoid a jail term in California, is believed the first American to be granted a Health Canada exemption to the nation's drug laws.
"We're cleaning out our garage to start growing," said Kubby, 56, who lives on the Sunshine Coast, home to several U.S pot activists who have sought refuge there.
"The Americans would do well to come up to Canada and see how the Canadians are doing this," Kubby said after receiving his exemption Thursday.
His lawyer, John Conroy, who has represented many high-profile pot activists in court, says he believes that Kubby is the first U.S. citizen to be granted one of the approximately 800 exemptions that have been issued by Health Canada since 1999.
"He's certainly the first one of the high-profile pot refugees," said Conroy.
Kubby's permit allows him to travel with up to 360 grams of pot within Canada and grow 59 plants at a time for medical use. It also allows him to store up to 2,655 grams of marijuana.
Both Kubby and his lawyer agree that's a lot of pot.
Kubby says he smokes up to 12 grams of marijuana a day to control symptoms of a rare form of adrenal-gland cancer.
Kubby, who is a host of Pot TV, a website with breaking news about marijuana issues, once ran for governor of California as a Libertarian candidate. He and his wife, Michelle, are well-known in North America as advocates for legalizing medicinal marijuana.
Kubby was flagrant about his pot use and eventually was charged with 11 counts of possession and trafficking in California. He was acquitted on all but two possession charges, for which he was sentenced to four months.
Kubby, Michelle and their two chidren -- aged six and two -- fled to Sechelt last year after the sentence was handed down.
Kubby was arrested on an immigration warrant last April after coming to the attention of Sechelt RCMP in media reports about medicinal marijuana.
Since then, he has applied for political refugee status -- a move similar to one made by fellow U.S. pot refugee Renee Boje, who also lives on the Sunshine Coast.
The U.S. has asked Immigration Canada to deport both Kubby and Boje.
Kubby and his wife also face criminal charges of production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking in connection with 160 plants police seized from their home in Sechelt in April.
Kubby said one of his biggest problems in B.C. has been that police just don't believe he needs to smoke as much pot as he says he does for medical purposes.
He said the documents from Health Canada now bear out his claims.
Kubby won support for his marijuana use from Dr. Joseph Connor, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and medical oncologist at the B.C. Cancer Agency.
Connor said Kubby's heavy pot smoking controls the blood-pressure spikes, rapid heart beats, severe headaches and chest pains that can result when his adrenal cancer cells produce too much adrenaline or other hormones, and that it cuts down on the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Marijuana appears to be unique in that it controls Kubby's symptoms "better than any currently available combination of standard medicines," wrote Connor in a letter to Health Canada.
"I have firmly recommended to him that he continue to use the cannabis in the current dose and using the specific strains of plants that he is now using."
Kubby's lawyer is now asking for the criminal charges in B.C. against Kubby to be dropped.
He is also asking the RCMP to return the Kubbys' pot-growing equipment so they can get started on a legal crop of marijuana.
But his MP, John Reynolds of the Canadian Alliance Party, is of a different view.
"This is going to open the doors to more Americans coming in and applying for exemptions . . . It concerns all Canadians," said Reynolds, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast.
"The law is here for Canadians. Now people everywhere in the world are going to say, 'Hey, Canada is a place to go and get your pot.'"
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, said Kubby's case "flings the doors open to similarly situated Americans."
Kurland also said Canada can expect an angry reaction from the Americans to this development.
"I think they are going to go ballistic . . . This is a direct attack
on their anti-drug policy."
© Copyright 2002 The Province