U.S. "reefer refugee" loses asylum claim in Canada

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A Canadian immigration panel
refused political asylum on Monday to a marijuana advocate who says he fled the
United States to escape persecution in the "War on Drugs."

Steve Kubby, an unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate, had argued he
was a political target of the police because of his outspoken views in favor of
medical marijuana and against U.S. anti-drug laws.

"What Mr Kubby alleges does not amount to persecution," Immigration and Refugee
Board member Paulah Dauns wrote in dismissing Kubby's application -- along with
those of his wife and two young children.

Kubby, 56, is among a handful of "reefer refugees" who have moved to Canada in
recent years to escape U.S. drug laws -- a movement they liken to the draft
dodgers who fled the United States in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Canada allows the medical use of marijuana and has even supplied
government-grown pot for people with illnesses such as AIDS, cancer or multiple
sclerosis.

Kubby began smoking pot in the 1980s to offset the effects of cancer and was
active in the campaign that led to California's Proposition 215 in 1996, making
marijuana legal for treating some sick people.

He was the Libertarian Party's gubernatorial candidate in California in 1998.

Kubby was convicted on drug procession charges in Placer County, California, in
2001, but moved to Canada before serving his sentence of house arrest. He now
lives in Sechelt, British Columbia, north of Vancouver.

Kubby argued in his refugee hearing that his need for marijuana was the same as
a diabetic who requires insulin to stay alive. He claimed his life would be
threatened if he was returned to the United States and denied the drug.

Dauns ruled it appeared pot was helping Kubby cope with his cancer
symptoms, but
it was unclear if it was actually keeping him alive. She noted that he would
have access to the drug under the California law he helped pass.

"He argues that a medical marijuana patient should be protected from
persecution. What he has demonstrated is that in fact, they are," Dauns
wrote in
her nearly 60-page decision.

Dauns noted that the U.S. federal government has opposed state medical
marijuana
laws, but Kubby had failed to show the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had any
special interest in prosecuting him.

Marijuana is a touchy issue in U.S.-Canada relations, with White House drug
czar
John Walters warning that Ottawa's plan to decriminalize procession of small
amounts of pot could lead to tighter security on the border.

Marijuana growing is estimated by police and advocates to to be worth more than
C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) annually in British Columbia, with most of the
potent
"B.C. Bud" eventually sold in the United States.

($1=$1.30 Canadian)


Source: Reuters
Pubdate: December 8, 2003
Author: Alan Dowd