In 1996, Steve Kubby helped ensure passage of California’s landmark medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, and became the proud father of a baby girl. In 1998, the 52-year-old entrepreneur was the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the California governor’s race.
Kubby, who says he has “cheated death” by using medicinal marijuana, exercise and hemp oil to conquer a rare form of cancer, made his 32-year-old wife Michele an integral part of his campaign team. They criss-crossed California saying things you’re not supposed to say when you have cannabis growing in the basement back home.
Candidate Kubby had a lot at risk when he rejected the warnings of friends and appeared in front of reporters and television cameras with a sticky bud in hand, proclaiming “This plant is not evil; the drug war is evil. Let’s end it and spend the money making a better world for ourselves and our children.”
This wasn’t political grandstanding ? Kubby is an athlete, activist, author and magazine publisher who loves marijuana as much as he loves risks. I’ve read about his helicopter skiing exploits in Ski West, the alpine sports magazine he published several years ago.
Kubby writes about blissfully leaping off the face of cliffs, skidding stoned down ice and snow in a paroxysm of pure thrill.
On his wedding day, he dropped a tab of acid and did a 90 foot bungee jump as his astounded wedding party looked on in bemused terror.
“Life is only fun,” he says, “when you’re out on the edge.”
But Kubby’s audacious public battle to end America’s drug war wasn’t just out on the edge, it was over the edge, like wearing a target in the center of which was written in big red letters: “Arrest Me.”
On January 19, 1999, the target got hit. Kubby and his wife Michelle opened the front door of their Northern California chalet to find armed agents from the North Tahoe Drug Enforcement Task Force (NTTF), an agency staffed with investigators from California, Nevada, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“We were warned last summer that [former California Attorney General and rival candidate for governor]Dan Lungren was angry at us,” Kubby said after the raid.
“We said publicly that although he was the top law enforcement officer in our state, he was violating 215. Our message was costing him votes. We were told to be on the lookout for spies in a green jeep. We saw them near our house last summer. We ran outside to confront them, but they fled. I didn’t think they’d come back.” But come back they did.
Government documents show that the Kubbys were ensnared by a costly investigation that began last July, when NTTF was notified by a local sheriff’s department about an anonymous letter mailed to them from Southern California. The letter claimed Kubby was growing thousands of marijuana plants and gave marijuana to his daughter.
Handwriting experts are slated to examine the handwritten address on the letter’s envelope; observers speculate that the letter was written by a Lungren operative or by law enforcement personnel. Whatever the letter’s origin, police now claim it as their sole reason for beginning an intensive six month investigation.
Officials assert that everything they did during the Kubby investigation was legal. Kubby says police documents reveal that “legal” police procedure in the United States goes far beyond what most Americans believe is allowable and proper. Indeed, in seeking the “probable cause” necessary to convince a judge to authorize a search of Kubby’s home, NTTF officers used techniques that were illegal until judges began ruling approximately 25 years ago that constitutional protections had to be suspended to assist the War on Drugs.
Police now enjoy expanded search and seizure rights, Kubby notes, because courts have literally interpreted the war metaphor in precedent-setting cases that give police emergency powers similar to those found in actual wartime.
Because of these rulings, many marijuana defendants are found guilty even though police use coerced confessions, tainted informants, trespass, threats, deception, illegal searches and other questionable surveillance and investigatory techniques.
“Most judges are former prosecutors,” Kubby explains. “They give police the benefit of the doubt. They hammer marijuana defendants. It’s business as usual.” To begin the Kubby investigation, police used a confidential informant to determine Kubby’s exact street address. Public records helped them determine ownership of the house the Kubbys were renting, as well as ownership of other houses in Kubby’s neighbourhood.
Investigators scrutinized Kubby’s neighbours. They watched and described neighbourhood children playing, recorded distribution of children’s bicycles and toys.
They called Squaw Valley Ski Corporation and talked its personnel department (apparently without a subpoena) into telling them why one employee drove company vehicles home. They ascertained square footage, deed status, and surveyor’s records for the houses of six of Kubby’s neighbours, and subpoenaed months of power company and employment records for Kubby and his neighbours.
On July 8, investigators tried to clandestinely photograph Kubby’s house. They returned late at night on July 10, stationing themselves 15 feet from the home’s west wall.
They crept along the Internet as well, conducting hours of searches that netted them Kubby’s on-line ski magazine, Alpine World.
“Investigator York found that [the Kubby website]included a heading termed Alpine World’s Cool Sites,” the police report notes. “Investigator York entered Cool Sites and found that it contained Marc Emery Direct Seed Catalog, a company supplying marijuana seeds to cultivators. Cool Sites also contained a webpage for Cannabis Culture magazine, a magazine advocating the unlawful (as well as medicinal) use/possession of marijuana.”
Net cops noted “pro-medicinal marijuana articles in the form of press releases from the Kubby for Governor campaign,” and “pro-medicinal marijuana articles from the American Medical Marijuana Organization, which lists its directors as Steve Kubby and Ed Rosenthal. (Senior Contributor for High Times magazine, Author of Deluxe Marijuana Grower’s Guide, Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, Marijuana Questions? Ask Ed, The Closet Cultivator, Marijuana the Law and You, etc.)”
Kubby’s electroliterary association with Emery and Rosenthal was part of the reason a judge signed the search warrant for Kubby’s home.
Officers also justified the search warrant by telling the judge that Kubby is “an outspoken advocate of the lawful possession of medicinal marijuana? admits to having purchased [grow lights]from a horticultural warehouse [and]makes available information on how to obtain marijuana seeds via mail. Furthermore, Kubby associates with Ed Rosenthal, an author who encourages the unlawful possession/cultivation of marijuana through his numerous marijuana cultivation books and articles?”
On July 13, NTTF Investigator Ed York circled Kubby’s home at 3am, looking for trash. In America, police can legally search garbage cans, even if they are on private property. York couldn’t find Kubby’s trash, so he stood outside their home for 45 minutes, sniffing the wind and performing other mundane detective chores. Several hours later, the Kubbys put out their garbage. York asked an employee of Tahoe-Truckee Sierra Disposal Company to help him put Kubby’s trash inside York’s vehicle. The detective carried the trash to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department and sifted it.
On July 20, investigators were watching at 8am when Michele Kubby put out her garbage. Time and again, investigators and garbage company employees worked together to procure and search Kubby’s garbage.
NTTF “Household Trash Intercept” reports reveal that garbage-sifting investigators found several ounces of discarded marijuana in Kubby’s trash, dozens of whole or partially-smoked marijuana cigarettes (“at least two having what appears to be lipstick residue”), mail, paper clips, redwood chips, rubber gloves, napkins used for wiping baby’s bottom, bottles of hemp seed oil, and many other personal items. Every shred of this detritus was meticulously weighed, analyzed, tested and stored, as carefully as if it was grandma’s set of sterling silver dinnerware.
The officers even found letters from Kubby to them, indicating that he knew what they were doing. Police recorded the presence of “a document addressed to law enforcement personnel, advising of his medical condition, alleged ‘medicinal use’ of marijuana, presence of a marijuana cultivation, and his possession of no more than 3.5 lbs. of marijuana (which he considers a lawful six month supply).”
Long & lonely vigils
The voluminous NTTF Kubby file reveals that the multi-agency task force is staffed with clever, well-trained people armed with a cannabis-killing mandate and lots of tax dollars.
Many investigators in the case have spent their careers studying marijuana gardens. Kubby’s pursuers were well-programmed in the fictitious evils of marijuana; their case file lists marijuana as a “dangerous drug” equivalent to heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine.
Many Kubby investigators are members of the California Narcotics Officer’s Association, a wealthy union and public relations machine adept at convincing politicians, the public and the media that funding the war on drugs is a worthy cause.
Although NTTF personnel deny that their investigation was politically motivated, only a fool would believe that investigating officers failed to see the threat that Kubby’s political candidacy posed to their image and job security. His campaign speeches and literature said that narcotics officers, especially federal ones, would not be tolerated in a Libertarian California. Kubby vowed that if he was elected governor, DEA agents would be arrested if they harassed California citizens.
“We believe they are enemy agents of an invading army,” he said. In this context, it’s no surprise that the investigation was put on hold in August, only to resume just after the November elections.
“They didn’t want to bust us before election day,” Kubby speculates. “That backfired on them with Proposition 215, when support for the initiative actually rose after Lungren busted Dennis Peron. They didn’t want to give me any pre-election publicity.”
In mid-November, with the election over, officers again began surveilling the Kubbys. Tenacious and unwilling to accept defeat, they continued their lonely vigils in and around the perimeters of the Kubby’s life, determined to prove through expensive clandestine observation what Kubby had already admitted in public, in writing, and on his website: that he grew and used lots of medical marijuana.
“They knew I had a medical grow, but they desperately wanted it to be a marijuana selling operation,” Kubby says. “They can’t steal all your money and property through asset forfeiture unless they allege sales. So they kept looking in our windows, watching our visitors and neighbours, grubbing through our garbage, hoping to find evidence of sales. We never sold any.”
But give the officers credit for trying. Blindly faithful to their training and mission, they pressed on in the sub-freezing winds, sleet and snow of alpine winter, hoping their investigation would somehow redeem itself.
Alas, one early January evening, Investigator Michael Lyke and a female officer named Garber were standing 75 feet behind Kubby’s house looking through his second story windows.
Lyke was trying to videotape what was going on inside the house, but his videorecorder’s batteries went dead after two minutes of inconsequential taping. Garber tried to take photographs of the inside of the house. All she ended up with, according to the surveillance report, were empty negatives.
But all was not lost, because officers claim to have seen Kubby, his wife Michele, and an unidentified blonde-haired male in Kubby’s kitchen area. According to the officers, the three were socializing while the blonde man and Kubby trimmed a marijuana plant.
Officers noted a vehicle in Kubby’s driveway. They ran a license and identity check, and found a faulty or contrived DEA file that identified the man as being two Jamaican marijuana smugglers.
This spurious misidentification was one of many mistakes they made during that night’s observation. They didn’t even list the date correctly on their reports, and the man was not a missing link in their hoped-for Kubby marijuana sales conspiracy. Instead, he was a bona fide medical marijuana user working as a journalist, visiting the Kubbys to interview them and do photography for magazine articles and a book about them. The man’s name? Pete Brady. The photographs? You’re looking at them.
I’d never heard of Steve Kubby until a friend handed me Kubby’s book, The Politics of Consciousness.
“You haven’t read this?” he asked, in the same incredulous tone somebody would use with a Pope who’d just admitted he hadn’t read the Bible. “It’s incredible. Revolutionary.”
After reading TPOC, I agreed that Kubby’s book was as fiery and convincing as tracts by Thomas Paine and other early American revolutionaries who spurred the American war for independence, a tour de force that begins with a piercing foreword by entheogenics expert Terence McKenna.
The book features essays that work on their own, but it also provides support for Kubby’s thesis that bonding with nature, visionary drug use, libertarian ideals and personal growth can improve individuals and society. It also contains scathing, haunting passages that now seem prophetic, passages predicting the arrest and persecution of anyone brave enough to proclaim that the drug war is but a symptom of an evil war on nature, human potential, and liberty.
I discovered that Kubby lived less than a day’s drive from my Northern California home, so I called and asked if I could write an article about him. He graciously invited me to visit his home in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
When I arrived for the interview, he and his wife Michele, together with their beautiful toddler daughter, resembled a picture-perfect mainstream American family. I’d anticipated a radical couple wearing hemp and tye-dye, but I met Michele and Steve, two good-looking people in business suits who believe in consumerism, having lots of kids, living well, having fun.
Obviously in love with each other and their agile daughter, the Kubbys told of their fairy tale courtship and love for skiing, and their struggle to live the American Dream in an era of government intrusion into private choices, which includes their “life-saving” decision to use medical marijuana. Both Kubbys have doctor’s recommendations for pot.
Kubby is a master story teller and a great host who gregariously recounts his exploits with a merry twinkle in his dark eyes. His stories are fascinating. He told of his college years living with Cheech Marin, the less spaced-out half of the famous stoner comedy duo “Cheech and Chong.”
Or the hilarious story of his antics at a military induction center during the Vietnam War, when he painted anti-war slogans all over his body and nearly was shot by military police before being kicked out of the facility, having achieved his goal of convincing draft officials that he wasn’t fit for military service.
“I couldn’t afford to run to Canada,” Kubby recalls, “but I knew I didn’t want to kill or be killed in an immoral war. Now I’m fighting against another immoral war ? the drug war.”
Kubby isn’t against all things military, however. Just because “it was on my list of things to do,” he twice flew an F-5 fighter jet. “One of the only civilians ever to do it,” he said. “We broke the sound barrier.”
Deep in the Pacific Ocean on a diving expedition, Kubby encountered a giant golden manta ray. “We were eyeball to eyeball,” Kubby recalls. “I felt we were totally linked with each other in inter-species communication. I felt much more at peace with that majestic being than I do when I am around most law enforcement officers.”
Change on a molecular level
Kubby told me story after story about his charmed life as a magazine writer, educator, entrepreneur and athlete. He seemed most proud of his work with disadvantaged children during the 1980’s, when he ran a wilderness camp program. But his mood darkened when he recalled 1978, the year “doctors told me I had cancer of the adrenal gland.”
“Doctors cut me open several times, and said, ‘Nobody survives this type of cancer.’ They gave me expensive medicines and radiation treatment. Those treatments kill you while they kill the cancer,” he said.
Searching for salvation, Kubby studied entheogens ? plant substances used for physical and spiritual healing. He studied anthropology, politics, spirituality, ethnobotany and ethics, searching for faith and a cancer cure. But it wasn’t just academic rationalism and grace that helped Kubby vanquish cancer. He says some of his most useful insights came from ingesting “Vitamin L,” otherwise known as LSD 25.
“Vitamin L helped me see through the programming that binds society and creates peoples’ self-limitations,” he says. “It was a catalyst for my own vision quests and rites of passage. It helped me see the connectedness of all things, the ideologies that rule this world, the tricks played by the corrupt, vertical power structure that runs things. It taught me to face death.”
Armed with wisdom gained through study and hallucinogens, Kubby began a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. He abstained from caffeine, soft drinks, meats, and junk foods. He also began practicing what he calls “molecular theology.”
“If you implement religious uses of plant concoctions such as ayahuasca and cannabis, and combine those with prevailing ideas of progressive theorists like Leary, Capra, Chopra, and Weil, you find happiness and healing are achievable by changing your body-mind on a core molecular level,” Kubby says. “You effect changes by using substances like cannabis and peyote to alter brain chemistry, breaking through old programming to sense new possibilities and paradigms. You enhance your internal chemistry by doing what you love ? be it sports, writing, art, music, community service, work, whatever ? and that produces a physiological response that promotes healing and happiness on a cellular, conscious level.”
Although acquaintances and family members scoffed at Kubby’s experiments with alternate realities and healing, he valiantly pulled himself back from an abyss of debilitating pain and the specter of death.
“I discovered the therapeutic effects of some very tasty cookies, made with the highest quality cannabis. It relieved and moderated ancillary effects caused by adrenal gland problems. It moderated my blood pressure and mood swings. It helped my sleep and digestion. After studying the centuries of folkloric and scientific evidence about marijuana, and using it myself, I knew it was medicinal,” he said.
Dr Vincent DeQuattro, a highly-regarded University of Southern California physician who treated Kubby’s cancer, agrees with Kubby’s assertion that medicinal marijuana saved his life.
The physician treated Kubby for malignant pheochromocytoma 15 years ago, using drugs and radiation. He referred Kubby to other doctors after the tumor entered Kubby’s liver, and lost touch with his patient. Based on his experience with other patients, DeQuattro believed Kubby had died, and was surprised to see in the 1998 California voter’s pamphlet that his former patient was alive and a candidate for governor.
After hearing of Kubby’s arrest, DeQuattro wrote an impassioned letter to the Placer County Superior Court judge handling Kubby’s case. In the letter, the physician says Kubby could have died by being incarcerated for three days without marijuana after his arrest. He begged the judge to allow Kubby to continue using medicinal marijuana, and vows to begin extensive scientific studies on Kubby to test his thesis that medical marijuana is primarily responsible for Kubby’s survival, which he calls “nothing short of a miracle.”
No medical immunity
It would have taken a miracle to persuade NTTF officers not to arrest the Kubbys on January 19.
Officers say the home’s large basement was subdivided into rooms containing sophisticated lighting, carbon dioxide and horticultural equipment. They initially overestimated the number of plants found, finally settling on an approximate figure of 256 plants, more than half of which Kubby says were seedlings. Police dismantled or seized thousands of dollars worth of grow apparatus and plants; they claimed Kubby’s crop was worth almost half a million dollars. They also took almost everything else of value out of his house: computer, money, family photos, letters, cameras, even some of his clothes.
“They ruined our on-line magazine business by stealing our computer. They tried to bankrupt us by stealing every cent of our cash. Most of it goes into their asset seizure fund. They left our second-hand furniture,” Kubby quipped.
During the search, police reports indicate that Kubby repeatedly informed cops that he was only a medical grower and user. He also told officials he was an officer of the Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Cooperative (OCBC). “Officers of the Cooperative are considered immune from federal prosecution,” Kubby explained, citing the City of Oakland’s policy regarding OCBB president Jeff Jones and other Club employees. “But police told me that I was living in Tahoe, not Oakland.”
Even though OCBC’s claimed immunity did not prevent federal officials from closing it in late 1998, Kubby hoped his medical credentials would prevent officers from arresting him. “I think they were just going to leave,” Kubby says, “until the district attorney showed up and ordered us arrested. I asked if I would be allowed to bring my medicine to jail. They said there was a no smoking policy, so I wouldn’t be able to.”
Little daughter Sarah* (*name has been changed) was ripped away from her parents and hastily bundled off to a day care provider; Michele and Steve were transported to jail, charged with multiple high-penalty felonies including cultivation for sale and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. They were inadequately dressed for the cold journey to jail, but were refused blankets and forced to sit in an unheated police vehicle for nearly an hour. The shaken couple began talking about their situation, until they realized police had left a hidden tape recorder in record mode nearby.
They were taken from one jail facility to another. Bail was set at $100,000 each, an amount the Kubbys say would have taken them forever to raise.
“I have never been in jail before,” Michele said, “I was scared to death. Steve needs his medicine, and wasn’t getting it. He began to have blood pressure and eye problems, and was nauseous. They refused to give him medical care. We were afraid he’d have a stroke.”
As word of the Kubby’s arrest spread through the internet, Placer County authorities began receiving a flurry of emails and phone calls condemning their decision to arrest the couple. Initially, jail authorities were cocky. “Proposition 215 doesn’t work up here in the hills. It’s only good for the fags in San Francisco,” a sheriff told Steve Kubby. But when the couple finally appeared before a judge after three days of hell in jail, the magistrate immediately reduced bond to zero and freed the pair against the frenzied objections of the district attorney.
“I don’t know if I could have handled another minute of jail,” Michele Kubby said. “I was in despair: crying, sobbing, wanting to die. All around me were people jailed on drug charges. Most of them have medical, emotional or educational problems. Some have medical conditions that warrant the use of marijuana. They need help from nurses, counselors, teachers, friends, family. Instead, they’re mishandled by people with guns and badges, which causes more injury. Managing the nation’s ‘drug problem’ by using prisons, cops and courts is an ugly business that perpetuates abuse. Steve always said the system is a waste of tax dollars. Now I know first hand.”
Seeds, sheep & democracy
Michele Kubby’s ideas about government are heavily influenced by husband Steve’s embrace of Libertarianism, a third party political movement that is gaining ground in the United States and Canada. One of the Kubby’s heroes is fellow libertarian Marc Emery, seedmeister extraordinaire and publisher of Cannabis Culture.
“Marc Emery displays a stroke of genius with his ‘overgrow the government’ campaign,” Steve Kubby explained. “Revolutions usually involve blood and bullets, but Marc has almost single-handedly turned Canada into a worldwide resource for marijuana genetics and personal freedom. He is spreading the finest cannabis across borders, in spite of desperate efforts by the corrupt, constipated old regime, and he is doing it with a smile on his face. He has shown us how to win a war by planting seeds ? millions of them ? and every time a seed is planted somebody makes a clear connection with their own power and freedom.”
Libertarian ideology sometimes sounds like anarchism, but it stops short of saying all government is bad. We might need government to repair the streets and maintain a skeletal military adequate to defend our borders against aggressors, Kubby says, but we don’t need a government that “inserts itself into every aspect of your life like a doctor inserts his finger into you during a gynecological or prostate exam.”
As Kubby explains it, American Libertarians are true patriots who believe that the US constitution is a noble document that enshrines personal freedom by limiting government power. He believes America’s current government is a form of tyranny that in no way resembles what the country’s founders envisioned.
“Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and most colonial farmers grew cannabis,” Kubby says. “Today, they’d all be in jail along with me. The revolutionaries who won this land from the British weren’t afraid to take up arms to overthrow a government that interfered with their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They would never accept a government outlawing people’s right to grow plants or ingest them. They would never accept a government that legislates what citizens do within the sovereign borders of their own bodies.”
As angry as he is at the government, Kubby subscribes to a utopian humanist philosophy that assumes humans will “do the right thing if given the freedom to do so.” Instead of believing that government is the glue that holds society together, he says government actions make problems worse rather than better.
Although candidate Kubby said he wanted a healthy environment, good schools, modernized technology and infrastructure, he steadfastly denied that government intervention can achieve those goals.
“The government is the biggest polluter, the best friend of greedy corporations, the worst enemy of personal freedom,” Kubby asserts. “People can solve their problems amongst themselves through dialogue, negotiation and consensus. When the government gets involved, common sense, choice, and efficiency go out the door.”
Kubby’s pro-freedom agenda created an unlikely coalition of supporters. Gun lovers, fundamentalist Christians, feminists, drug users, prostitutes, private property advocates, porn stars, loggers, capitalists and other independent-minded folk rallied around his promise of an unregulated society.
“Human society will never be perfect,” he admits, “but I trust individuals more than I trust government. I’d rather give people too much freedom than too little. I’d rather see them empowered to believe in themselves and accept the consequences of their choices, rather than think that the government can make decisions for them and save them if they fail. I think people have a right to spend the money they earn rather than have it confiscated as taxes. The government coerces taxes from Michele and I, then they use it to fund police who come here to terrorize and rob my family. That’s democracy?”
Kubby’s belief in the goodness and wisdom of his fellow Americans is heartening, but his police file reveals that non-police Americans helped bust him. A lot of people ? garbage company employees, workers for Sierra Pacific Power Company, neighbours and associates ? knew about or participated in his investigation and arrest. Several power company employees were listed as official members of the police raid team, and Kubby was charged nearly $200 to pay a power company worker who disconnected his grow room’s carbon dioxide system.
“I forgive them,” said Kubby. “They’ve been raised to obey without question. They’re sheep, living in fear of their own government. They’ve been brainwashed into believing that my family deserves to be robbed and put in a cage. The schools they were forced to attend are nothing more than state-run indoctrination centers. I blame the government, not them.”
Repercussions from Kubby’s arrest have hit California like an earthquake, shaking the medical marijuana community and revealing fault lines of power, fear and ego.
Libertarians, cannabis activists, and friends have created a firestorm of protest around his arrest. Kubby, who earned nearly 70,000 votes last year in his run for governor, is again the darling of a sizable portion of the factionalized Libertarian Party.
Activists from around the world, including a man from Slovenia, offered condolences and support. Feeling the heat, Placer County’s district attorney convened a grand jury to indict Kubby rather than just file and prosecute the charges all by himself. Kubby says he will force officials to dismiss charges against him and Michele, as well as several other medical marijuana defendants in Placer County, one of many Northern California jurisdictions known for hard-line antagonism toward medical marijuana users.
But behind the scenes in California’s medical marijuana community, Kubby’s arrest triggered gossip and debate. Some people criticize Kubby, the OCBC and other marijuana cultivators, claiming he was growing too many plants for personal use and chiding him for “hiding behind Prop 215 when he was probably growing a cash crop.”
One activist commented: “I hate seeing anybody get busted. The plant should be totally legal for whatever we can use it for. Growers should be able to make as much money off it as possible with the market setting the prices, just like for any other commodity. On the other hand, people like Kubby and [Todd] McCormick make it hard for police to believe in 215. They keep seeing big grows and unexplained income and guys who claim that 4,000 plants in a mansion were medical. You see why cops think the whole medical thing is just a front. It’s not for me to say if he was growing too many, but I think everybody who grows pot should defend the right to make money off of it. It’s the drug war that’s immoral, not people who make money for their labor and product.”
Kubby vehemently denies that his grow room was a for-profit operation.
“We never sold any. Michele and I have a ten-year-old car. We live in a rental house. We had very little money in the bank. Instead of attacking us, people should be directing their anger at the police and prosecutors,” Kubby says. “A prime tactic of fascists is to get citizens to turn against each other. As an American of Russian Jewish descent, I am a child of an ethnic culture that has been stigmatized, demonized, criminalized, arrested and sent to concentration camps, so I am a bit more sensitive than most people to the threat of corrupt governments. I know how bad it can get. We don’t need to fight each other, we need to fight the government.”
Killing the messenger
When I heard the Kubbys had been arrested, I was concerned for them, and immediately began seeking details necessary to update the article I’d already filed on them for this magazine.
I never expected Kubby’s arrest to impact me. I’ve written about eco-tresspassers who break laws by preventing loggers from cutting 1000-year-old redwood trees, and lots of other controversial people. I’m a journalist, I figured, why worry that somebody’s legal problems would become my own?
In retrospect, I should have been more paranoid. I’ve endured three years on federal and state probation arising from a previous medical marijuana conviction, which means police can walk into my home anytime to do a “probation search.”
Because I break no laws, am a good neighbor and positive member of the community, I feared no evil. But on January 21, two days after the Kubbys were raided and the last day of my federal probation, a gang of armed men stormed my house claiming they were there to do a “routine probation search.” As I later determined, the search had little to do with my probation. I had never even met my probation officer and had never been probation searched before.
The men identified themselves as members of the Butte County Sheriff’s marijuana eradication unit; they ransacked my home and interrogated me for several hours. An authentic probation search looks for controlled substances and guns and then is over, but these cops kept asking me about people I associated with, my bank accounts, my magazine writing. They hacked my computer.
When they found a small quantity of medical marijuana in my freezer; I informed them I was protected by my doctor’s recommendation under 215. Officers reacted with derision, saying they didn’t believe in medical marijuana and alleging that my severe and documented medical conditions ? arising from being injured when I was a high school teacher several years ago ? weren’t severe enough for them.
Later, they brought me out on my patio and asked about the more than 40 different house plants there. Pointing to tiny ornamental cacti, they said they were charging me with felony possession of peyote, possession of marijuana, probation violation. Unless I could “provide information” on a “big bad political person that you have been hanging out with in the last few weeks,” I would be going to prison for a “long, long time.”
A journalist must protect the integrity of his sources. Even though I don’t want to go to prison, informing isn’t something I would consider. I was taken to jail. After spending all the money in my bank account posting bail, I returned home to find items and cash missing from my house, my computer broken, my neighbors distraught.
In the days that followed, I’ve been called and visited by more police. On the last visit, they hastily rifled through my books and photos, said they’d made a mistake, and then left.
NTTF’s Investigator Lyke called me one morning, introducing himself as the man who’d ordered me arrested. I told him that what he saw me doing at the Kubby’s was a bona fide journalistic activity. He said he’d like to read the article when it came out.
At some point in our surreal conversation, I asked Lyke if he enjoyed using his career to inflict pain on cancer patients. I asked him if he felt proud, when he went home at night, knowing he’d ordered to be arrested a non-violent, introspective, partially-disabled writer.
Lyke didn’t respond to my challenges in an overtly authoritarian manner. In fact, we spent 30 minutes engaging in an actual dialogue about hemp, drug war ethics, and medical marijuana.
For example, Lyke was curious about hemp seed oil found in Kubby’s refrigerator. I told him hemp seed oil was a totally legal product that was also the most healthful and nutritionally complete seed oil available.
Kubby makes a delicious concoction using garlic, hemp oil, tofu, lemon juice and spices. His daughter loved it, I told Lyke, and love is not yet a crime.
Hope & despair
The Kubbys are facing the hardest of times, but say they are energized by the support and attention they’ve received after the arrest.
“We’re going to be the test case for medical marijuana,” Steve Kubby asserts, “maybe even for the whole war on drugs.”
Kubby’s optimism is based on his “porcupine defense,” which he describes as a booby-trapped grow room that forced police to seize constitutionalist, jury nullification, medical marijuana literature and other political writings along with his plants and grow apparatus.
“We’ll put the whole corrupt drug war ideology on trial,” Kubby said. “We’ll prove that this war is a culture war waged against people who are tired of corrupt government and the constipated Puritans who run this country. It isn’t just about medical marijuana, it’s about our right to whatever medicine we choose. It’s about our right to privacy, to be in sole control of our homes and bodies. It’s about a cadre of unenlightened, bigoted hooligans who think they can control our spirituality, our love, our souls by putting guns to our heads.”
The Kubbys appear confident, but I’m not sure how I feel. Kubby has publicly described me as a “totally innocent bystander” who would not have been arrested if I hadn’t visited his house when he was under surveillance. Yet as I write this, I have not been able to afford a competent private lawyer who can keep me from going to prison.
“They’ll love you in prison,” a jailer told me. “You’ll get raped, get AIDS and die. That’s what you get for being a druggie.”
I would be more optimistic if as a journalist I hadn’t written about so many people sent to prison for legally possessing medical marijuana. Strange paradoxes occur where I live: a woman who kills her newborn child gets a year in jail while marijuana growers routinely get sentenced to two or more years. I now understand what Michelle Kubby meant when she said that being arrested is like “being robbed and raped.” When the drug warriors confiscated my medicine, they stole my faith in America.
Now, the prosecutor wants to send me to prison, to steal the sunshine from my eyes, to rob me of the feel of my partner’s caress on a spring day. She wants to cage me, give me such a dire criminal record that I can never get employment, cause as much anguish as possible. Why?
I examine my conscience and my actions honestly and objectively, trying to see the evil man that the prosecutor must believe that I am in order for her to be so zealous in her prosecution. I am not perfect ? nobody is ? but I cannot see myself as an evil man. Like the Jamaican smuggler in the DEA’s faulty file, he does not exist. The prosecutor instead is trying to send another harmless, innocent person to prison. I am scared, heartbroken and angry, but I have no choice but to soldier on.
Kubby, who recently declared bankruptcy and is experiencing health difficulties, seems at peace with the struggle.
“Once, when I was diving alone,” he said, “a Great White Shark menaced me. I was prepared to die, but I cocked my fist back as I saw its eyes roll back and its teeth exposed, which means it was going into attack mode. At the last minute, it veered away. My fist is still cocked. There are human sharks out there, waiting to take a bite out of all of us. I hope everyone will wake up and fight for freedom. If we win, we gain everything. If not, we lose our lives.”
? Steve Kubby’s website is at www.kubby.com
? The Politics of Consciousness is available from Loompanics Unlimited in Port Townsend, Washington, or by calling 1-800-380-2230.
? You can contribute to Pete Brady’s legal defense fund c/o Cannabis Culture
? You can contribute to The Kubby’s Defense Fund,Monarch Bay Plaza, Box 375 Dana Point, Ca 92629-3424
Editor’s update of developments in the Kubby/Brady cases which occurred after Brady filed his article.
Steve and Michele Kubby continue to discover the ruinous effects that police actions have had on their lives.
“Police stole all our identification documents, even our passport for Sarah,” Steve Kubby told Cannabis Culture in March. “We don’t have our driver’s licenses, and without picture identification, we can’t even get on an airplane. They also stole the key to our safety deposit box where we stored our birth certificates. This means we can’t get new identification documents.”
Kubby says NTTF officers continue to harass his landlords. “They have visited our landlords several times, telling them they have to inspect our home every two months,” Kubby reported. “Our landlords are tired of being hassled. They will probably be forced to evict us.”
Police visited the Kubbys’ post office and bank, telling workers that the Kubbys were drug dealers.
At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors requested that Kubby not be allowed touse a medical marijuana defense. The judge issued an interim ruling that affirmed the prosecution request.
Alpine World, Kubby’s award-winning on-line sports magazine, has been destroyed by the raid; the court has refused to order police to give back scanners, hard drives, digital cameras and other items necessary to publish the magazine. The Kubbys have officially declared bankruptcy.
The Kubbys have also sighted the infamous green jeep used for surveillance. “We’ve also seen tracks in the snow behind our house, indicating that surveillance is continuing,” Kubby said.
Brady’s case has also become an important test for Prop 215. After Butte County Deputy DA Claire Keithley threatened to put Brady in jail for using Marinol or marijuana, Brady successfully argued that Prop 215 allows people on bail or probation to use “all medicines allowed by law, even marijuana.” Judge Roberts agreed, possibly setting a precedent for other California medical marijuana patients. “I am going to keep filing motions which will ensure that Prop. 215 is implemented as written,” Brady said.
At a February rally protesting the drug war, Brady saw two of the undercover marijuana narcs who busted him on January 21. As a scheduled speaker at the rally, attended by 500 people, Brady used his speech to identify the narcs.
Challenging the officers to “search your hearts and realize that deliberate persecution of marijuana users is a war crime,” Brady told officers they will be held accountable for what they have done to “innocent, non-violent people.”
“For me, prison is a death sentence,” Brady said, “but living in a drug war is a death sentence too. We have to fight for our basic human rights.”