Canada: Refugee Status For Criminals Part 2

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Mar 27, 2005
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Conscientious Objection

Among American conscientious objectors to the drug war, perhaps none has a stronger case for winning asylum in Canada than Steve Kubby, who has been battling a rare and highly aggressive form of adrenal cancer. It's not a stretch to say that his quest for refugee status is a matter of life and death.

Kubby always had a voracious appetite for living on the edge. This rugged American individualist was a ski racer, a mountain-climber, a deep-sea diver, and a pilot with top secret security clearance who broke the sound barrier flying an F-5 fighter jet. But Kubby's world caved in when he learned that his body was riddled with cancer. When they opened him up, the doctors found that malignant tumors had spread to his bladder, stomach, liver and spleen. Kubby underwent four major surgeries, chemotherapy, and several debilitating rounds of radiation, but nothing worked. Medical experts pronounced his condition terminal and said he would not live for much longer than a year.

Kubby's energy was draining away when his former college roommate, Richard "Cheech" Marin dropped by to cheer him up. Cheech lit a joint for old time's sake and told his companero, hey if you're going to die, then why not die happy? Kubby took a few hits, and, wow, he hadn't felt this good in a while. He started to self-medicate with marijuana on a regular basis. That was 30 years ago.

A miracle of pre-modern medicine, Kubby, now 58, credits his survival to smoking up to an ounce of cannabis every day. Adhering to a strict dietary regimen, he supplements his steady intake of THC ( the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana ) with generous swabs of cholesterol-lowering hempseed oil -- super-rich in protein and essential fatty acids -- which he spreads on toast. "I don't have a medicine cabinet. I don't take any pharmaceutical drugs, except for a rare dose of antibiotics. I don't drink coffee, tea or soda," says Kubby, who likens his use of marijuana to a diabetic's use of insulin.

In 1999, Dr. Vincent DeQuattro, one of the world's leading specialists on adrenal cancer, examined Kubby and concluded that cannabis stabilized his adrenal function, which is perpetually on the verge of overdrive, and inhibited the growth of various tumors that remain in his body to this day. ( Recent studies conducted by Spanish scientists in Madrid have shown that THC injections destroyed malignant brain tumors in rats. ) If Kubby is deprived of cannabis, according to DeQuattro, adrenaline will overwhelm his system and his blood pressure will spike to dangerous levels, which could cause excruciating headaches, blindness, a heart attack, kidney failure or a fatal seizure.

Kubby was living near Squaw Valley, the California ski resort, in 1995 when he met and married Michele Nelson, who worked at a San Francisco securities firm. "I was a total Reaganite, a young Republican," said Michele, who had grown weary of business and politics as usual. But the campaign for Proposition 215, which the Kubbys helped launch, was anything but usual.

When the Kubbys saw that the federal government was hell-bent on trashing California's medical marijuana law, Steve ran for governor on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1998 to highlight this issue. Kubby stood on the steps of the state capital in Sacramento, held up a bottle of aspirin and a big bud of home-grown cannabis, and asked which was more dangerous, the aspirin that kills more than 2,000 Americans a year, or marijuana, which has never been known to kill anyone.

Law enforcement did not take kindly to his antics. Shortly after the election, 20 heavily armed SWAT team members battered down the Kubbys' door, confiscated their 265-plant marijuana garden, and hauled Steve and Michele off to Placer County jail. Three days in the slammer without reefer nearly did him in. His captors mocked his requests for medicinal cannabis and went out of their way to punish him. "I was forced to attend breakfast where my repeated bouts of vomiting could be witnessed by the rest of the inmates who were trying to eat their meal," recounted Kubby, who believes that he and his wife ( who is also a prescription cannabis user ) were arrested because of their outspoken roles as med-pot advocates.

The police, meanwhile, had taken nearly everything the Kubbys owned, including their office equipment, which they used to operate an online sports magazine. ( Real estate, cash, securities, and any other property allegedly linked to a marijuana offense are subject to immediate seizure under civil forfeiture statutes enacted in the mid-1980s. ) As a result, the Kubbys lost their business and were forced into bankruptcy. They also had to deal with the hassle and expense of obtaining enough cannabis on the black market for their medical needs. And a costly wrangle in court loomed as both Kubbys were charged with conspiring to cultivate and sell marijuana.

Fearful of another life-threatening stint in jail and tired of tangling with G-men who sought to prevent them from exercising their legal right to use medical marijuana, Kubby and his wife decided to leave the country. In the spring of 2001, they drove to British Columbia with their two young daughters and applied for asylum on the grounds that they have a "well-founded fear of persecution" by drug warriors in the United States, where there's a warrant outstanding for Kubby's arrest.

The Kubbys now reside in Sun Peaks, a mountain town five hours northeast of Vancouver. Like Boje, they hover in legal limbo while Canadian justice officials weigh their petitions. Michele Kubby took it upon herself to learn the law and develop her skills as a self-taught attorney. She recently argued the couple's immigration case before a federal appeals court in Canada and is waiting for a ruling from the judge. If the Kubbys succeed in getting asylum, it would be a big boost for Renee Boje and others seeking relief from U.S. drug policies.

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