Reefer Refugees Caught In U.S. War On Drugs Freaked By Feds' Order To Deport
Cancer Patient

Last month's refugee board ruling giving refugee Steve Kubby, a medical pot
user and cancer patient, 30 days to pack up and leave was a terrible downer
for those seriously ill folk from south of the border who hope to find safe
haven here. Whenever things got too rough there on the front lines of
America's drug war, they could at least fantasize about heading out in the
dark of night along the new underground railway to Canada. Many of them have
actually done this. With U.S. drug czar John Walters trying to nullify the
effects of state laws allowing a medical defence for possession, many vocal
users find their only options are to flee north or face 25 years in the pen.

Now, with the Kubby decision, other medical marijuana users seeking refugee
status in Canada are fearful about their own cases.

There are now 100 to 150 Americans in perilous health living on the Sunshine
Coast, victims of a senseless war that has forced them to follow in the
footsteps of slaves and draft dodgers.

And a willing crew is pledged to help them along the path.
Undergroundrailway.ca offers suggestions on crossing legally: be
clean-shaven, cut long hair, look wealthy, have a story like 'going to a
concert' or 'going to a (Vancouver) Canucks game' well rehearsed.

Then there's the section of the site titled Crossing The Other Way, advice
on making a run for the border. Author David Malmo-Levine, the Harriet
Tubman of the pot movement, isn't talking about going out for some Taco
Bell.

The first instruction on crossing illegally is to watch a segment of The
Fifth Estate on sneaking into Canada. Then it suggests, 'Crossing into
Canada won't be easy - and it's getting harder all the time. You may have to
pay a smuggler to show you the way.'

Besides advice on how to arrive in Canada via the reefer railroad,
Malmo-Levine writes about the difficulties an American might have adjusting
to life here. Many refugees have put down fantastic roots in the community,
while others develop long-term depression from homesickness and the
realization that they can't go back until the war is over. 'As a guest in
the country, learn to listen,' the site advises. 'What seems to you a normal
tone of voice and emphasis may seem overbearing to a Canadian.'

'I personally have had five or six Americans sleep on my couch,' says
Malmo-Levine. 'I know many of my friends who have had similar stories.
Indirectly through the Web site we have helped dozens of others.'

All this has drawn the ire of Langley-Abbotsford MP Randy White, a Canadian
Alliance member and the vice-chair of the parliamentary committee on the
non-medical use of drugs. He supports Canadians who need medical marijuana
but says we 'should flatly refuse to hear (Americans) under the refugee
hearing schedule. This is a ridiculous position to put our country in.

'If Kubby is very ill he should stay in the United States and get himself
fixed. I'm not here paying taxes, and neither are you, for somebody's else
problem. There are many Canadians who are looking for a certificate who are
royally ticked off at the government because Steve Kubby comes to town and
gets in line ahead of them.'

It looks like White was granted his wish. Immigration board adjudicator
Paulah Dauns ruled that Kubby, who is fighting to keep adrenaline levels low
and prevent heart attack and stroke, did not need Canada's protection.

'I reject his evidence that he was a victim of a 'witch hunt' by
prosecutors, law enforcement officials and judges,' she wrote. An appeal to
federal court has been granted, and Kubby will once again argue that he is
being persecuted in the United States for his use of medical marijuana and
his opinions.

When I first spoke to Kubby, a former California Libertarian gubernatorial
candidate, a Health Canada marijuana medical access regulations cardholder
and a former ski magazine publisher, he was optimistic about his family's
chances of becoming the first Americans to be granted asylum in Canada.
'There's a first time for everything,' he told me. 'I have the largest
exemption to grow pot of any person in Canada. I'm the only person to have
Canadian experts testify that I have a life-and-death medical necessity for
cannabis.'

British Columbia cancer specialist Dr. Joseph Connors testified at the
immigration hearing that 'he has had a much longer than expected survival
with his kind of medical problem than is usually seen, but it is not unique.
There are recordings of other cases of equally long survivals.... Marijuana
seems to be controlling his deadly adrenal cancer.'

Kubby, who was arrested in California for possession of more than 200
marijuana plants but drew an 11-to-one jury ruling in his favour, fears
federal prosecutors might reopen his case. He also faces a 120-day sentence
at Placer County Correctional Facility for the possession of a peyote
button.

'It's a death sentence for a parking ticket,' he's fond of saying.

Adjudicator Dauns doesn't believe this. 'He asserts he is at risk of being
jailed and will die if imprisoned because he will be cut off from cannabis.
He has failed to demonstrate this is remotely likely.'

Dauns, who once sat on the board of a Catholic drug treatment facility,
points to Bill 420 (allowing medical marijuana for prisoners) and
Proposition 215 (allowing the licensing of medical pot users) as reasons why
Kubby won't face dire hardship if he returns to California.

But as Orange County Judge Jim Gray, who has a much greater understanding of
California and federal laws, explains, 'There are a number of states that
have passed legislation for medicinal marijuana. But federal law trumps
state law. This is why the Kubbys are in so much trouble.'

During the course of our interview he paints a grim picture of the situation
facing vocal activists. 'Our country is off track. A friend who is a federal
district judge in Los Angeles told me, 'You know, sometime I'm going to have
to sentence a medicinal marijuana offender, and this is going to be a very
difficult thing for me because my hands are tied.' This is a compassionate
man, a good man. The laws are written and enforced, and once the U.S.
attorney general or department of justice decides to go after somebody,
there is nothing people can do.'

Both the Placer County district attorney's office and sheriff's department
deny Kubby was ever a target. DA Brad Fenocchio emphatically says 'We didn't
target him. Mr. Kubby has this perception of what occurred. There is a
warrant in the system, and I think there may even have been a parole
violation.'

Lieutenant Carl Fulenwider of the sheriff's department puts it more bluntly.
'Are we coming up to Canada to get him? No. If he comes back to Placer
County, like anyone else with charges he'll do time.'

When asked point blank if Kubby would receive marijuana under Bill 420 in
the county jails as Dauns assumes, Fulenwider replies, 'In county jails? We
are under different laws. We would take care of Mr. Kubby. We wouldn't let
Mr. Kubby die in our care.'

Does that mean he would receive marijuana? 'That means we'll take care of
his medical needs,' Fulenwider tersely replies.

Once again Canada is being asked to harbour upstanding, politically active
and intelligent Americans. And despite the immigration ruling, Michele
Kubby, Steve Kubby's wife, believes in the end Canadians will live up to our
better selves.

'There is something in this country that makes me believe that the Canadian
people, when they understand my husband's disease, will be shocked that the
government would do something so reckless and irresponsible. It's time for
the marijuana community to make some noise.'


Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2004
Source: NOW Magazine (Canada)
Copyright: 2004 NOW Communications Inc.
Contact: letters@nowtoronto.com
Website: http://www.nowtoronto.com/