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Medical Pot Advocate Loses Bid to Bar Deportation From Canada

January 21, 2006|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A judge in Canada on Friday rejected an eleventh-hour appeal by a California medical marijuana refugee trying to avoid deportation to the United States, five years after fleeing to avoid a short jail stint he called a death sentence.

Steve Kubby, a former Laguna Beach resident who was a 1998 Libertarian candidate for governor and one of the authors of California's watershed medical marijuana law, suffers from a rare form of adrenal cancer that can cause blood-pressure spikes that his doctors say are controlled by smoking cannabis.

Canadian Federal Justice Yvon Pinard ruled that Immigration Canada may now proceed with its order to return Kubby to the U.S. -- along with his wife, Michele, and two young children -- as soon as next week.

Kubby was sentenced in March 2001 to four months in jail by a Placer County judge for possession of a peyote button and a hallucinogenic mushroom after jurors acquitted him of more serious charges that he was selling pot grown in his basement medical marijuana garden.

The peyote and mushroom were in his possession, Kubby said, for an artist's rendering to be used in a book he wrote on the drug war while living in Olympic Valley, just north of Lake Tahoe.

Amid wrangling with authorities over his sentence, Kubby moved with his family to British Columbia in May 2001.

If jailed and not allowed to use marijuana, Kubby contends, he will die behind bars. Jailhouse use of medical marijuana is not allowed in California, where voters in 1996 approved the nation's first law allowing the use of cannabis as medicine with a doctor's recommendation.

Around the time Kubby moved to Canada, judges in Placer County ordered his original misdemeanor convictions converted to felonies. Kubby, who says he now could face up to three years behind bars, has appealed those rulings, which he calls a miscarriage of justice.

Kubby also worries that prosecutors will attempt to extend his jail stay because he left the country and later was declared a fugitive.

"They don't want to admit it's political," Kubby said of officials in Placer County. "I committed the unpardonable sin of helping pass a medical marijuana law that police and prosecutors hate."

Authorities in Canada "were sold a bill of goods" by counterparts in the U.S., Kubby said, adding, "There's this failure on the part of Canadian officials to accept that there could be this much animosity and determination to harm me on the part of officials in Placer County."

Placer County Dist. Atty. Bradford R. Fenocchio could not be reached for comment.

Michele Kubby, who has been representing her husband in court, expressed hope after Friday's ruling that she could push their case to the Canadian Supreme Court.

"I've got to do whatever I can to keep Steve away from Placer County," she said. "No one believes that removing his cannabis will kill him. But I'm the one who will be left a widow."

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