One of America's best known medical marijuana refugees may be coming home next week -- against his will and to face what could effectively be a death sentence. Steve Kubby, his wife, Michelle, and their two young children have been waging a four-year legal battle to remain in Canada after fleeing a jail sentence for Kubby in California, but so far, Canadian authorities have been deaf to their appeals, and they have now been ordered to leave the country by next Thursday.
Kubby, founder of the American Medical Marijuana Association and a 1998 Libertarian Party California gubernatorial candidate, was arrested after Placer County authorities raided his home marijuana garden. Kubby suffers from a rare form of terminal adrenal cancer that has proven resistant to conventional treatments but whose symptoms are alleviated by marijuana. Kubby says that marijuana stops his adrenaline levels from spiking, an event that brings on high blood pressure and an increased probability of suffering a stroke or aneurysm.
"Unfortunately, the adrenaline in my system magnifies any little bit of stress, and I am under stress now," Kubby told DRCNet Thursday. "I soak my sheets with sweat at night, I have nausea, I have trouble sleeping. To help explain this, I tell people to remember when they passed a car and cut it a little too close. Afterwards, the danger has passed, but your hands are shaking and your heart is thumping. That's the adrenaline. Now, multiply that by hundreds or thousands, and that's what happens to me. It takes a lot out of me."
Local courts eventually figured out that medical marijuana is legal in California, and vindictive prosecutors were left with charging him with possession of a peyote bud and the dried stem of a psychedelic mushroom found in a guest bedroom. Kubby was convicted and sentenced to 120 days in jail. When local authorities confirmed they would deny Kubby the right to use medical marijuana while in jail, Kubby fled, saying a jail sentence without marijuana amounted to a death sentence for him.
Kubby and his family headed to what they thought were the friendlier climes of Canada, quietly entering the country as tourists in 2001. Canadian marijuana activists and humanitarians greeted them with open arms, but the Canadian government was not as understanding. Shortly after Kubby appeared on a nationally televised documentary about medical marijuana refugees, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided his Sechelt, British Columbia, home and arrested on charges related to a 160-plant home marijuana grow.
While Kubby was able to eventually get the marijuana charges dropped -- in fact, he was granted a medical marijuana exemption by Health Canada -- Canadian authorities continued to pursue him as a "fugitive" after a California appeals court ruled that's what he was. The Canadian government has fought the Kubbys' request for asylum at every step of the way, ignoring both allegations of wrongdoing in the Placer County courts and charges that it is misreading Canadian law.
Canada rejected Kubby's asylum request last year. In July, a federal court judge upheld that Immigration and Refugee Appeal Board decision. And in November, the Canadian Border Services Agency turned down their last-minute request for protection from the tender mercies of California justice. "It has been determined that you would not be subject to 'risk to life' if returned to your country," the agency found.
That determination came despite the submission of a letter from Dr. Joseph Connors of the BC Cancer Agency, who was chosen by Immigration Canada to examine Kubby. Connors confirmed that Kubby suffers from a rare form of cancer that is controlled only by marijuana. But Canadian authorities ignored that evidence.
"We are continuing to fight," said Michelle Kubby Thursday. "We are arguing that removing Steve from the country violates his charter rights. Health Canada has granted Steve an exemption to use cannabis because of his need, and no minister should be able to take that right away from him," she told DRCNet. "It shocks the conscience."
Michelle Kubby was choosing her words deliberately. Under Canadian law, throwing people out of the country can be blocked if to do so would result in events that would "shock the conscience" of normal Canadians. Canada, for instance, routinely refuses to extradite people facing a possible death penalty in the US because for Canadians, who do not accept the death penalty, imposing death on anyone "shocks the conscience."
"This is very serious and frightening," said Michelle Kubby, "but we will find a way. We have to find a way. Now we need to ask for extended protection, and while I don't think the court will be able to deny me, nothing is guaranteed. That's why it's so critical that the immigration minister be inundated with letters and phone calls. The minister has the ability to just say, 'Stop, this is over now, let the Kubbys stay.'"
To avoid being deported to the US is more critical than ever now, said Michelle Kubby, because Kubby now faces three years in state prison as a fugitive felon. "If all else fails, Canadian border services would arrest us and take us to the border and Steve would be handed over to federal marshals, who would incarcerate him in a federal facility before extraditing him to California," she said.
Given the recent experience of fellow medical marijuana refugee Steve Tuck, who was dragged from a Vancouver hospital bed by Canadian authorities, driven in an ambulance to the border, and turned over to American jailers who refused to treat his ongoing medical conditions until he was ordered released by a federal judge, this is not something the Kubbys look forward to. But because Canadian authorities have seized their passports, they may have no other option.
"Going back to California and going to prison would effectively be a death sentence for Steve," said Michelle Kubby. "They will not allow him to have medical marijuana, and the drugs they would offer him won't control the adrenaline spikes and his blood pressure will shoot out of control and he would probably suffer an aneurysm. The body can only take so much. Pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy, experimental radiation -- none of that does anything for Steve."
To contact Canadian Immigration Minister Joe Volpe and let him know that sending Steve Kubby to most likely die in a California prison cell "shocks the conscience," contact: The Honourable Joe Volpe, Minister -- Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 365 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 1L1, phone (613) 954-1064, e-mail [email protected]