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Old 02-28-04   #1
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Steve Kubby denied political asylum in Canada

Medical marijuana refugee and former California LP gubernatorial candidate Steve Kubby has been denied political asylum in Canada.

Kubby, who takes marijuana on doctor's orders to treat a rare form of adrenal cancer, had requested asylum because he said he would face a death sentence if he was returned to the United States and denied access to the drug.

However, in a December 8 ruling, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that Kubby did not have reasonable grounds to "fear cruel and unusual punishment" in the United States.

Kubby, who may have to leave Canada within 30 days, said the decision was motivated by prejudice against medical marijuana.

"We were just stunned when we saw the decision because it was just completely contrary to the testimony and the science and the evidence that we introduced," he told the Associated Press. "We really think this decision is not only erroneous, but a bigoted decision.

"These people seem determined to want to put me in a prison cell to see if I'm really telling the truth -- that I have life and death medical necessity for medical cannabis."

Kubby, 57, who currently lives in Sechelt, British Columbia with his wife Michele and their two daughters, said he will appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Canada.

If he is extradited to the USA, Kubby said he will be denied access to the medical marijuana that has kept him alive for the past 35 years.

"If I go back to the United States, I'm facing an immediate bailiff's warrant," he told the Associated Press. "They'll put me in jail. They're not going to give me marijuana. I am really between a rock and a hard place."

Kubby had been diagnosed with a form of adrenal cancer in 1968, and was given just a few years to live.

He has defied the odds since then. He had surgery to remove a tumor, got chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and began smoking medical marijuana to suppress the cancer.

Before fleeing to Canada, Kubby was a resident of California, where he used medical marijuana legally under the state's Proposition 215.

Passed by voters in 1996, the initiative legalized the use of medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision.

In 1998, Kubby ran for governor of California on the Libertarian Party ticket in a campaign that focused on overturning the state government's foot-dragging on Proposition 215.

In 1999, police raided Kubby's home in Olympia Valley and found marijuana plants. Kubby used Proposition 215 as a defense, saying he grew and used the drug for medicinal purposes.

A deadlocked jury acquitted Kubby and Michele of possession of marijuana with intent to sell. However, Kubby was convicted of possession of trace amounts of peyote (mescaline).

The felony conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, and Kubby was sentenced to 120 days in jail. He fled to Canada in 2001, saying jail time without access to medical marijuana was tantamount to a death sentence.

In August 2002, Kubby was granted permission by Health Canada to grow and smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

Under Canadian law, people can use marijuana for medical purposes. The Canadian government even supplies marijuana to people with AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

In April 2003, Kubby formally requested political asylum in Canada, arguing that he would be jailed if he returned to the USA. Since he would be denied access to medical marijuana, such a jail sentence would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" and torture, he argued.

At his hearing before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, Dr. Joseph Connors of the British Columbia Cancer Agency testified that Kubby would die within four days if he did not have access to medical marijuana.

Conners said Kubby could suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke without the drug.

However, in its December 8 ruling, the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected that argument, stating: "What Mr. Kubby alleges does not amount to persecution. There are no substantial grounds to believe that his removal to the United States will subject him personally to a danger of torture."

The Board agreed that marijuana apparently helped Kubby cope with cancer, but said there was no definitive evidence that it kept him alive. The Board also said it believed Kubby would receive medical marijuana in jail.

Kubby said he would appeal the decision so he could "get this before a real court and a real judge." An appeal could take up to three years, and Kubby would not be deported until the appeals process has run its course.

According to news reports, there are more than 100 so-called "reefer refugees" in Canada, who fled the USA to escape prosecution for using medical marijuana.
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