American med-pot refugees Steve Kubby, Steve Tuck and Ken Hayes were all arrested on April 16, 2002, for a variety of med-pot cultivation offenses. Steve Kubby’s wife, Michelle, was also arrested on charges of cultivation and possession for the purpose of trafficking. All of them are American citizens who have emigrated to Canada due to persecution by US authorities over their med-pot activities and beliefs.
Kubby, the 54 year old founder of the American Medical Marijuana Association, former Libertarian candidate for governor of California and host of the Pot-TV news with his wife Michele, suffers from adrenal cancer which he keeps in remission through the use of cannabis. Kubby had recently been subject to a great deal of media attention, with articles in the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers, CBC TV and an interview with Fox National News.
Tuck, a Gulf War vet who suffers from severe spinal injuries and uses cannabis to control pain and muscle spasms, had also recently been featured in the media.
Ken Hayes used to run the Harm Reduction Center in San Francisco, but this was his second Canadian bust in two months. Hayes was first picked up on BC’s Sunshine Coast on February 12 and charged with cultivating marijuana in Canada. After that bust Hayes was released from custody without bail, saying he would seek political asylum in Canada if the US requests extradition (CC#37, DEA attacks med-pot and hemp).
In a public email, Michele Kubby pleaded for the public to help save her husband’s life. She asked that supporters please immediately call the officers who arrested Steve Kubby, to tell them that Steve is in serious danger, and that he is not a flight risk and will show up for his court appearance.
Kubby knows from personal experience the dangers of being denied medicine behind bars. In 1999, he spent three days in jail after police raided his California home during his electoral campaign for state governor (CC#18, Candidate Kubby). While in jail in California, he nearly died when his cancer, which had been in remission for 20 years with the help of cannabis, became active again.
Steve Kubby spent the first night of his more recent, Canadian incarceration without a bed, on a cold floor, suffering from lack of cannabis.
“They thought I was a junky and wouldn’t listen to me,” he explained.
By the next day, however, the venerable Dr Lester Grinspoon – a Harvard professor and author of Marijuana Medicine – called to explain Kubby’s dire need for herb. Kubby reported that Canadian jail guards treated him more respectfully after learning of his condition.
Michelle Kubby credits Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery with saving her husband’s life.
“Marc Emery waited outside for four hours in the cold for my husband to be released,” she said. “He gave us $5,000 on the spot for Steve’s bail. He is my hero and I am indebted forever for what he did for us.”
On May 18, Canadian immigration officials found that Kubby had entered Canada legally, and that because of alleged political persecution in the United States, Kubby was eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship as a UN Convention political refugee.
Kubby’s US conviction for possession of peyote had no legal standing in Canada, as peyote is legal there. However, Kubby’s US conviction of possession of psilocybe mushroom would have been an offense in Canada. The judge agreed that a Canadian caught with such a small amount would not likely be charged, but nevertheless it is banned in both nations.
The prosecution for the Canadian Immigration Service had argued that Kubby should be immediately deported to face his US sentence of 120 days for possession of a minute quantity of dried mushrooms. However, Kubby’s lawyer Alex Stojicevic explained to the judge that Kubby would die if denied his medical marijuana for more than a few days ? “so despite the trivial nature of his conviction, he faces death if he returns to the US.”
The judge agreed, and Kubby was granted leave to apply for political refugee status. Kubby now only needs to report to Immigration officials once a month, instead of once a week as had been the case.
Tuck and Hayes have also successfully filed applications for refugee status, an effort which was assisted by aggressive American agents overplaying their hand. A DEA agent went to Hayes’ home at 8am on May 8, in the company of an RCMP officer, and tried to intimidate Hayes into returning “voluntarily” to the US. Even though Hayes had no attorney present, he wisely refused their offer. This tactic is not considered standard practice, and the judge disapproved, lending sympathy to Hayes’ claims of political persecution.
The judge also ruled that, if their claim for refugee status is denied, Hayes and Tuck would only be subject to a “departure order” which means that they would not be forced to go back to the US, but could leave Canada for the country of their choice.
Canada’s refugee appeal process is a slow one and can take years, as exemplified by Renee Boje (Boje’s baby, this issue), who has been waiting since 1998 for a final decision on her refugee status.