Feature: Medical Marijuana Refugee Steve Kubby Expelled From Canada, Faces Life Threatening Jail Sentence in California 1/27/06

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Medical marijuana refugee Steve Kubby flew from Vancouver to San Francisco Thursday evening, expelled by Canada at the bitter end of a four-year effort to remain in his adopted home and avoid serving a jail sentence he says could lead to his death. He is heading for an uncertain future in the US, with the first question being whether he would even make it past US Customs without being jailed.

He didn't. Michelle Kubby reported late Thursday night that he was arrested upon entering the country at the request of Placer County, where he faces the jail time. A hearing is set for this morning. After that, he is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in Placer county. Kubby and his supporters fear he will be jailed at that time, and he could face additional charges for fleeing the country.

"They have refused to listen to our arguments, and there's been politics played at all levels," said a distraught Michelle Kubby Wednesday evening of Canadian immigration authorities. "From what I've seen of the justice system in both countries, I'm very disheartened. All we can do now is hope for the best."

Kubby, his wife, and their two children fled to British Columbia's Sunshine Coast in 2001 to avoid a jail sentence for possession of small amounts of peyote and a dried mushroom stem. Kubby was convicted on that charge in a last-gasp prosecution by Placer County authorities who had raided his Lake Tahoe home in 1999, seized hundreds of marijuana plants, and tried to charge him with unlawful cultivation. But Kubby, who suffers from a rare form of adrenal cancer and was a prominent medical marijuana activist and former Libertarian Party candidate for governor, successfully argued that his plants were medicinal.

Kubby has repeatedly said marijuana decreases the adrenaline spikes caused by his cancer and that he would die if imprisoned without access to his medicine. But despite California's legalization of medical marijuana nearly a decade ago, Placer County authorities refuse to allow him to medicate in jail.

That didn't seem to matter to Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board hearing officer Paulah Dauns, who rejected Kubby's application in 2003. Although she agreed that marijuana helps control Kubby's cancer, she ruled that his life was not at risk if he had to return to face jail in the US. "He has not established there is a risk to his life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment," she ruled. The two years of legal maneuvering since then have mainly been an effort to undo that ruling.

Kubby supporters accompanied him to the airport in Vancouver Thursday afternoon for an emotional farewell, where he repeated his claim that an extended jail sentence could kill him. "The four days I was incarcerated here in Canada and the three days I was incarcerated in Placer Country, there were ample jail records of my distress. My wife likens it to taking insulin away from a diabetic," he told a circle of friends and reporters.

Kubby then flew to San Francisco, accompanied by his American lawyer, Bill McPike. "The officials in Canada might be sending him back to a death sentence," said McPike said before leaving Vancouver. "I didn't think the officials from Canada would do that because from what I understand, Canada has no death penalty."

While Kubby was greeted with handcuffs by authorities, supporters in San Francisco were set to welcome him as a returning champion, with a reception committee organized by Hemp Evolution, Axis of Love San Francisco, and the California Marijuana Party, according to an email alert from Hemp Evolution's Clark Sullivan. "We ask that you stand with Steve, when he arrives at SFO, in a display of support in his continuing battle with Placer County officials," the alert said. "Placer County wants to put him in jail for 120 days, after he was prosecuted for growing his medical cannabis, but that could be a death sentence for Steve."

Michelle Kubby said Wednesday that he may resort to Marinol if all else fails. "We don't know if it will help," she said of the synthetic cannabinoid that is part of the US pharmacopeia, unlike marijuana. "Steve will be a guinea pig. It's a sick experiment."

Michelle Kubby and the two children have also been ordered deported from Canada, but were given until Monday to get their affairs in order. "Steve and I are going separately," she said. "I was busy being his lawyer up here and needed time to get things ready to leave. And we didn't want the kids to see him get taken away if that's what happens."

The future is uncertain, Michelle Kubby said. She and the children will be staying with relatives, at least for now, while Kubby faces Placer County justice. "We don't know what's going to happen next," she said. "It's very frightening."

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Issue #420 -- 1/27/06

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Feature: San Diego Politicos and Activists Face Off Over Medical Marijuana | Feature: Study Claiming Methamphetamine is Overrunning Hospital Emergency Rooms Fails to Withstand Scrutiny | Feature: Medical Marijuana Refugee Steve Kubby Expelled From Canada, Faces Life Threatening Jail Sentence in California | Feature: On the Occasion of our 420th Issue, We Look at 4:20 | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Europe: Ireland to Start "Cautioning" Marijuana Users -- No, Wait a Minute, We Changed Our Mind | Europe: British to Review Drug Classification Scheme | South Asia: Indian Farmers, Maoists Team Up in Opium Trade | Australia: Green Party Takes a Step Back on Drug Policy | Electoral Politics: Nationally Known Drug Reformer Seeks Green Party Gubernatorial Nomination in Connecticut | Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Bill Wins Senate Committee Approval | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Opportunities, MPP in DC and Nevada | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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