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Pot Activist Denied Refugee Status

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Steve Kubby, the California pot activist who fled to Sechelt in 2001, has
lost his bid for refugee status in Canada.

Paulah Dauns, the Immigration and Refugee Board judge who heard Kubby's
case, rejected his refugee claim Dec. 9, saying Kubby's prosecution under
U.S. drug laws "does not amount to persecution."

"He asserts he is at risk of being jailed and will die if imprisoned
because he will be cut off from cannabis," said Dauns in her decision. "He
has failed to demonstrate this is even remotely likely."

Kubby, who was the Libertarian candidate for governor of California in
1998, argued he was persecuted by U.S. authorities because of his political
beliefs, namely his advocacy of medical marijuana.

Kubby's wife, Michele, and their two daughters, who are seven and three
years old, also were denied refugee status and the family was issued a
30-day departure order.

Kubby said the decision was "completely unexpected."

"We really felt like our whole world has been pulled out from underneath
us," said Kubby.

He plans to appeal the decision.

Kubby has a rare form of cancer which affects the adrenal gland in his
brain, causing sudden increases in adrenaline and related hormones which
raise his blood pressure dangerously. He began smoking marijuana in the
1980s to control his symptoms and now smokes between a half ounce and an
ounce of pot a day.

"It's an unbelievable amount of pot," said Michele, and they need to grow
their own supply because it is otherwise too expensive and hard to obtain.
"Where is my husband supposed to get a pound of pot a month?"

Kubby was sick for several days following the refugee board decision, with
high blood pressure and difficulty walking. Michele is certain the symptoms
were caused by the stress of the refugee board decision, which triggered
bursts of adrenaline.

"For 24 hours he couldn't walk straight. It was like a stroke," she said.

Michele is confident the appeal will be successful.

"At the end of the day, there is a risk to life," she said. "Canada is a
compassionate country. They're not going to escort us out of here."

Dauns described Kubby's case as "unique" because his condition is so rare.
She accepted the medical evidence that pot is an effective treatment for
his cancer but did not agree he would be at risk of death or torture if he
returned to the U.S.

"He is arguing he will be denied medication, not that he would be tortured
while incarcerated to extract information by a state agent or with the
acquiescence of the state," wrote Dauns. "This is simply not what was
envisioned when the Convention Against Torture was enacted."

Dauns said she heard convincing evidence that even if imprisoned in the
U.S., Kubby would receive good medical care which could, under a new
California law, include receiving pot as medicine.

But the Kubbys remain convinced Steve would likely die in a U.S. prison,
based on his experience when he was arrested in California and his blood
pressure spiked after he was denied pot.

In January 1999, California state police and federal Drug Enforcement
Agency officers searched the Kubbys' home and seized 265 pot plants. Kubby
was charged with thirteen drug-related felonies but ultimately was
convicted of only two of the charges: possession of mescaline and
psilocybin mushrooms. The California judge sentenced Kubby to 120 days of
house arrest, a fine and three years of probation.

In her decision, Dauns noted that the marijuana charges against Kubby were
ultimately all dropped and the U.S. judge ruled he could use medical
marijuana while under house arrest.

"Mr. Kubby is still trying to make this a case about the denial of his
right to cultivate and possess marijuana. That is not what this refugee
case is about," wrote Dauns. "He argues that a medical marijuana patient
should be protected from prosecution.

What he has demonstrated is that, in fact, they are."

Kubby never served his sentence but instead moved to Sechelt in 2001,
started growing his own supply and got a Health Canada permit for medical

"We came to Canada because we recognized they were humane," said Michele.
"Marijuana is a medicine."

The couple earn their living through video production, she said, creating
shows for Pot TV and websites.

"We have been peaceful here. We're not a problem for society," said
Michele. "What we need is to be left alone and have complete, unfettered
access to marijuana."

Pubdate: Sat, 13 Dec 2003
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Coast Reporter
Contact: ianeditor@dccnet.com
Website: Coast Reporter