History of injustice
Renee’s plight began in California, shortly after the state passed Proposition 215, which had legalized cannabis for medical use. Renee was working for cancer patient Todd McCormick as an artist for a book he was writing on the production of med-pot. McCormick and best-selling author Peter McWilliams, who suffered from both cancer and AIDS, began growing pot for research and distribution to other patients (CC#19, Fighting for life in California).
In the first federal raid on a state-approved medical marijuana garden, McCormick, Renee and others were arrested by the DEA. Despite the illnesses of the men involved and the med-pot statute, the government disallowed any medical defense in the case.
Peter McWilliams ended up choking on his own vomit when he was prevented from using the cannabis that controlled the nausea he experienced due to his cancer and AIDS treatments (CC#27, The murder of Peter McWilliams).
Todd McCormick spent five years in jail suffering with the pain from a fused neck and hip without the medicine which eased his pain and which he felt kept his cancer at bay. During his five-year stay, he was repeatedly thrown into solitary confinement for weeks at a time, because the prison guards tested him for THC and said he was using cannabis while in prison.
The federal government claims to have witnesses who saw Renee watering plants. On the basis of this testimony and Renee’s refusal to testify against the other people involved, she faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life.
Renee fled to Canada, where we met and began a friendship which quickly blossomed into a love affair. Only a few years ago, over 300 people gathered together to celebrate with Renee and I as we performed a Gnostic wedding ceremony which celebrated cannabis as the Tree of Life and its relationship to continued fertility. This was fitting because on the day of our sacred marriage ceremony, Renee was seven months pregnant. She gave birth to our son a couple of months later, under a great big yellow Shiva moon. We named him Shiva after the Hindu lord of cannabis.
Nothing has brought me more joy in my life than my family, and nothing has caused me more distress than the thought of my family being torn apart.
Throughout our marriage Renee has had to suffer indecency after indecency. She had to report to probation once a week to face the scrutiny of people who held her freedom at hand. She had to go into a Vancouver probation office, sometimes with an infant in her arms, and face the judgmental eyes of those who would oppress our culture. Finally, Renee’s lawyer was able to have these visits reduced to once a month. Renee also has to appear in court every six months to have her bail renewed, always under the constant threat of losing her freedom through the arbitrary decision of a potentially unsympathetic judge.
As a Canadian, I would hope that my country would stand at my aid in this situation. But I have very real fears that the same government that sold out the will of its own people to move toward a more progressive drug policy under American pressures, will too easily decide to send my American-born wife to prison for allegedly watering a plant. Moreover, as my son begins to make his words into sentences, I wonder how I could ever answer the inevitable questions: Where is my Mommy? Was she bad? Why did you let them take her away?
Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has just released disclosure on Renee’s US extradition order, after the case has been before the Canadian Justice Department for five years now. At a time when Canada is restructuring its own cannabis laws, a process hindered by an overbearing American influence, Cotler seems eager to make a decision on a case.
Contained in this disclosure package is a disturbing letter to the Minister of Justice from officials at Immigration Canada, indicating that they support Renee being extradited. They do not feel Renee will receive cruel and inhumane treatment if she is sent back to a US prison and that if she does suffer any abuse she will be able to fight these abuses from within prison. This is a complete lie. These Canadian Immigration officials would rather sacrifice my wife than upset the political balance between Canada and the US.
These officials read reports submitted to the Justice Minister from Renee and her lawyer about the violent, cruel and inhumane conditions which women endure in US prisons. These reports from Amnesty International, the UN, and Human Rights Watch show that women are raped and beaten by male prison guards. Some women reported being handcuffed to prison bars so that they could be raped and sodomized by male prisoners while the male guards watched and participated in these violent and cruel acts. Women are not given adequate health care or nutrition and they are shackled to bedposts while giving birth.
Renee was sexually harassed by the male guards who “watched over her” during her stay at the federal prison for women in Los Angeles when she was first arrested. She was held for 72 hours and strip searched 15 times, sometimes in the presence of male guards who watched her while probing their tongues at her.
These men also directed threatening sexual remarks and gestures toward her every time they came into contact with her during her three-day stay in prison. Renee was terrified and felt that she would be raped by these men if she was left under their “care” for much longer.
Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is portrayed as a human rights activist, and also as a man who helped to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. It is hard to understand how Cotler can let another segment of society, the “drug-user,” have a similar hate campaign rallied against them in which they are rounded up, numbered and jailed ? especially after the findings of such Canadian inquiries as the Le Dain Commission and the Senate Committee Report on Illegal Drugs.
If Cotler is the human rights advocate he is depicted as, surely he will not decide to end a woman’s life for her involvement with a plant. To send Renee back to the US, Irwin Cotler would have to be of the same character as the Nazi sympathizers who sent Jews to concentration camps. At the very least, he would be of the same minimal moral fibre as the Canadian government agents who refused to give escaping Jews exile.
The case against my wife has no validity or morality behind it. My wife is a beautiful, kind person and she has done nothing wrong. For her to be sent to prison for her association with medical marijuana, from a country that has a federal medical marijuana program, would be a travesty of justice.
In order for Renee to avoid being imprisoned in the US, her lawyer, John Conroy, feels it is important to show the Canadian Justice Minister that it would shock the conscience of the public to lock the mother of a Canadian child away in a dark and dangerous US prison for decades of her life.
Please write a letter or an email to Irwin Cotler asking him not to extradite Renee to a US prison, and to allow her to remain in Canada with her husband and her son where she is safe and free. Please help Renee to win her case and to set an important international precedent between Canada and the US. This will ensure that other Americans who are being persecuted for their involvement with cannabis can come to Canada and seek safety.
? Simply send an email expressing your opinion and address it to: The Honourable Irwin Cotler. Please cc a copy of your email to Renee and John Conroy. They are keeping records of all of the letters sent to the Justice Minister in case they need to appeal his decision to the Court of Appeals. Send emails to: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected].
? You can find more information about Renee’s case and instructions on how to send a letter to Irwin Cotler at her website: www.reneeboje.com
? For a longer version of this article and links, go to: www.cannabisculture.com/news/boje