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By Hempology | June 14, 2005

An American Couple Seeking Refugee Status in B.C., So They Can Have Access to Medical Marijuana, Hopes for a Quiet Existence Near Kamloops – - Their Cause, However, Has Been Highly Visible And Controversial

SUN PEAKS RESORT — Steve Kubby doesn’t look 58 years old and to hear him proudly boast about skiing more than a million vertical feet this past winter, he doesn’t sound 58, either.

He and his wife Michele don’t look like the droopy-lidded, weed-smoking pot-grower stereotype that appears in movies or TV shows for comic relief.

They also don’t look like a couple seeking political refuge in Canada.

If anything, the Kubbys resemble an all-American couple with two energetic, ski-loving daughters, Crystal, 5, and Brooke, 9.

The Kubbys are activists fighting to get marijuana legalized, especially for medical use, and are going through the courts to get the drug laws changed.

And in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this week that people using medical marijuana do so risking prosecution, they feel their own refugee case was just made stronger.

“We’re pretty excited about that because we’re in federal appeals court ( over refugee status ),” said Steve. “We’re disappointed for our American friends.”

In the comfort of the Sun Peaks townhouse they have called home since last fall, the Kubbys have closely followed the plight of fellow medical marijuana users in the States.

“We love Kamloops. We love Sun Peaks,” said Steve, who has a licence from Health Canada that allows him to grow a maximum of 137 plants — a supply that he says is adequate to feed his daily regimen that he says has kept him healthy and his adrenal cancer at bay for 30 years.

He said he’s among 800 people across the Canada with licences to grow their own medical marijuana.

Although Michele does not have a licence, she, too, sometimes uses marijuana to ease the symptoms of her irritable bowel syndrome. For her, it’s a quality of life issue. For her husband, it’s a life issue.

About 12 times a day, every day, Steve lights up a one-gram joint to help him deal with the effects of his cancer, which has also shown up on his liver, aorta and spinal cord. It calms his blood pressure and heart rate and has other healing properties, he said.

“I’m a walking time bomb,” said Steve. “Medical marijuana is my only medicine.”

The Kubbys emphasize the fact they aren’t growing their plants anywhere near their Sun peaks home. Their plants are in another comer of the province, a few hours’ drive away.

“We’re trying everything we can to be good neighbours and be safe,” he said.

They don’t sell their marijuana and won’t go that route because they are so public in their lobbying efforts, Steve said.

In 1996, the Kubbys fought politically in California for Proposition 215, a referendum that passed allowing people using marijuana for medical purposes, to get and use it legally in the state.

“Michele and I dedicated two years and raised half a million dollars to get sick people off the battlefield in the war on drugs,” said Steve.

In 1998, Steve ran for governor of California on the Libertarian Party slate. Two months after the vote, their Placer County home was raided by the sheriffs department and 265 plants were seized.

The couple was arrested and spent three days in jail, during which time Steve had no access to marijuana a situation he likens to depriving a diabetic of insulin that was life threatening for him.

While they were cleared on their pot charges under California’s Compassionate Use Act, police had also found a few peyote buttons and a magic mushroom that Steve said he was using for exhibits in a book he was working on.

In spring of 2001, the Kubbys moved to Canada. Michele is still fighting to get him cleared in the U.S.

The B.C. Interior is their second stop in Canada. They first landed in Sechelt, where they set up a marijuana garden in their garage, complete with security system and sprinklers.

Steve’s health was assessed by Dr. Joseph Connors of the B.C. Cancer Agency. Connors couldn’t be reached this week, but in a previous interview with CBC’s The National, he said if Kubby has found a medication that’s effective for him, why should he use something that’s less effective.

He testified at the couple’s Immigration Refugee Board hearing that the life expectancy of someone with Steve’s type of cancer is usually three to five years.

While they were in Sechelt, the Kubbys faced another run-in with the law over their grow, this time spending four days in jail after their home was raided. Drug charges were dropped.

Michele sounded like a lawyer as she cited case law regarding court decisions that are relevant to their situation.

“What I’ve learned is real change happens from a judge’s decision,” she said.

They are awaiting the results of an appeal on the refugee board ruling on their status here.

Having met on the ski lift at Squaw Valley, Calif., it seemed only natural for the couple to gravitate to a B.C. resort like Sun Peaks.

During the interview, Steve takes a couple of smoke breaks on the deck. He slides the glass doors closed.

While they continue with their medical marijuana battles, the Kubbys say they want to sit back and coast for a while. That’s why they moved to Sun Peaks.

Kubby, who published Ski West magazine from 1987 until 1991, said his passion is skiing. He lived in Tahoe when it was quiet, and through his publication turned skiers’ focus on that resort community. He’d like to do the same for Sun Peaks.

“I see this area as being the next Colorado or Utah” he said. ‘If I’m allowed to stay, my dream is to do for Sun Peaks and the Interior resort what I did for Tahoe.”

Michele said they will always passionate about the medical marijuana issue, and she’d eventually like to get into immigration counseling for others who are in the same situation as them.

“If you never give up you never lose,” she said. “Why can’t we at least agree that people who are ill should have access to this medicine without having to jump through all these insane hoops?”

Steve said Canada is his home; his heart and his hopes are here.

“Benjamin Franklin said wherever liberty dwells, there be my country. And liberty doesn’t shine any brighter than here in British Columbia.”

MAP posted-by: Richard

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