U.S. Pot Smoker Seeks Refugee Status
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Author: Adrienne Tanner, The Province
Published: Thursday, March 06, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Province
Contact: [email protected]
U.S. man claims he will be persecuted for medical marijuana use if he's returned to California.
Steve Kubby took a final toke, tucked away the rest of his pot in a pill bottle and entered the federal building to deliver opening remarks at his own refugee hearing.
The medical-marijuana crusader is seeking asylum in Canada on grounds he will be persecuted for pot use if returned to his home in Placer County, Calif.
"Many people are completely shocked by someone seeking refugee status from the United States of America," said Kubby, who smokes large quantities of marijuana to control symptoms of a rare adrenal cancer.
He claims that without toking every hour, he could die.
Paulah Dauns, the Immigration and Refugee Board member presiding over Kubby's hearing, was sympathetic to his needs and granted him regular smoke breaks.
Cancer specialists agree Kubby's pot intake reduces his risk of a heart attack by controlling blood-pressure spikes, rapid heart beats, headaches and chest pains caused by the over-production of adrenaline.
The medical evidence was convincing enough for Health Canada officials, who last fall granted him permission to grow and smoke pot for medicinal purposes.
Kubby claims evidence at his hearing will prove that in the U.S., medical users like himself are systematically persecuted.
American police, prosecutors and judges "cannot be trusted . . . and have secretly conspired to violate the law," said Kubby, referring to California's Proposition 215, which allows for the medical use of marijuana.
Lawyer Gordon Starr, opposing Kubby's refugee bid on behalf of Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Department, dismissed his claim as preposterous.
"The United States is a free and democratic country," said Starr.
Canada's closest neighbour "does a very good job protecting the rights of its citizens."
The true reason Kubby fled the U.S. was to escape consequences of a drug conviction, Starr said.
Kubby was convicted of possessing peyote and one magic-mushroom stem and found not guilty of any marijuana offences.
The trial was fair, Starr said.
Kubby was dressed in a blue pin-striped suit, but was not feeling well and wrapped his legs in a ski jacket to ward off a chill. His wife Michelle was dressed in a red suit and took charge of his case.
The Kubbys' corporate appearance was in stark contrast to their handful of supporters. Among them were marijuana legalization activist David Malmo Levine and John West, a hippie from Hornby Island who claims he experienced "immediate religious experiences" with his first toke.
Steve Kubby's key witness, and the first to take the stand, was Patrick McCartney, a former journalist from Placer County. McCartney left his job at the Auburn Journal in 2001 to research a book about the rift between U.S. federal and state governments over medicinal-use-of-marijuana laws.
Toting a knapsack full of documents, McCartney travelled to Vancouver from his home near Sacramento, Calif., to assist Kubby's case.
McCartney said his documents show there has been a concerted effort by federal and state law-enforcement officials to undermine Proposition 215 since the day it was passed.
The strategy involves intimidating doctors who prescribe medical marijuana and seeking out evidence showing that medical users are trafficking drugs.
The hearing is expected to last eight days.
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