Editorial: Steve Kubby IS a Refugee 12/12/03

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David Borden, Executive Director, borden@drcnet.org, 12/12/03

One of this week's pieces of bad news was the denial by an official of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board of Steve Kubby's request for asylum. Kubby contends that medical marijuana is an essential component of his strategy for surviving adrenal cancer, without which he won't be able to survive the 120 days awaiting him in a California jail. His doctor agrees. Board member Paulah Dauns, who presumably is not thoroughly trained in cancer treatment, ignored or disbelieved the doctor's testimony to arrive at her decision.

Canada is a bastion of reason in drug policy compared with the United States, so it feels a little strange as an American drug reformer to criticize a Canadian official. Nor am I an expert in Canadian law or the refugee statute. But I do understand the basic underlying principles of human rights. Last but not least, Steve Kubby is one of our own; Canadian medical marijuana activists have rallied around him; and he is a genuine zealot for the cause, and enthusiast for its organizations, who was active in these issues long before his current situation overtook him. So I'm going to go with it.

In my opinion, Ms. Dauns relied on strained and inconsistent logic in arriving at her decision. Dauns wrote that because his conviction was not for medical marijuana, but on a different, minor drug charge (mushrooms), Kubby's case demonstrates that the system works. The system protects medical marijuana patients in California from persecution.

Well, no. California statute comes down the right way on this, true. But it's not enough for the legislative branch (in this case the people through ballot initiative) to respect a human right in the letter of its laws. The executive branch authorized by that legislature has to respect those rights in practice. Prosecuting and convicting a man because of a medical choice he has made is only one form of persecution. Denying needed medicine that a doctor has prescribed while he is incarcerated is another form, and if the refugee law doesn't recognize that, it should.

Dave Borden and Phil Smith
Dauns also ignored the other levels of government at work, specifically the federal. It's not enough to be free from persecution by California the state. To actually be free, the federal government also needs to desist. Dauns made her decision at a time when the federal government is increasing its prosecutions and anti-medical marijuana operations in California substantially. If federal law didn't intervene, the state might indeed allow Steve Kubby to use marijuana in prison. But that's not the situation. Though indirectly, the federal government is persecuting Steve Kubby, by preventing state authorities from respecting his human rights as California law provides.

Kubby is appealing the decision, and perhaps a different official will reverse it and allow him and his family to remain in British Columbia, safe from government's evil clutches here in the US. The article below provides much more information on his case, and one of the links at the bottom of it points to an action alert with some suggestions of what you can do to help.

Never forget: Rights are not granted by governments, they are respected or they are violated, but they do not depend on the certification of legislatures to exist. A wrong committed by politicians or a system does not justify a wrong committed in cooperation with that system. Steve Kubby should not be sent away to die needlessly in a California jail; and that's a basic truth which no bureaucrat's intellectual contortions can reverse.

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Issue #315, 12/12/03 Editorial: Steve Kubby IS a Refugee | Canada Denies Refugee Status to US Medical Marijuana Exile | Fallout Continues in Goose Creek, South Carolina, High School Drug Raid | DRCNet Interview: Darrell Rogers, Acting Executive Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy | DRCNet Book Review: "A Drug War Carol," by Susan Wells and Scott Bieser (Big Head Press, $5.95) | Newsbrief: Bush Campaign Letter Attacks Drug Reform Funders | Newsbrief: Thai Government to Investigate Itself over Drug War Killings | Newsbrief: Bolivian Government Shifts Away from "Zero Coca" | Newsbrief: New Canadian Prime Minister to Revive Marijuana Decriminalization Bill | Newsbrief: Jamaican Solicitor General Warns Ganja Decrim Could Violate International Treaties, Invite US Retaliation | Newsbrief: Australian Prime Minister Says Injection Room Violates Treaties, UN Says No It Doesn't | Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana Approved by German Court | Newsbrief: West Virginia Supreme Court Grants Private Employers Greater Pre-Employment Drug Test Rights | Newsbrief: NYC Cigarette Tax Hike Leads to Black Market Violence | Newsbrief: Cop Kills Cop in Methamphetamine Raid Gone Awry | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar
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