A true story of U.S. government injustice-- and why libertarians care


Read the column below from www.reason.org, the daily blog of Reason
magazine, the leading libertarian magazine, and see if you don't share my
outrage at
government-created injustice and my compassion for this truly innocent man.

This story helps explain why libertarians fear unchecked government power,
because it inevitably leads to massive injustice and abuses of power with
similar victims.

It's a relevant point here that the principle of federalism would mean
the federal government should not overrule states that pass compassionate
medical marijuana laws--- or decriminalize drugs outright, as Alaska did
with small
amounts of marijuana.
Yet, the Bush administration --- like the Republican and Democratic
administrations before it-- has violated its alleged principles of limited
and continued to push to overrule states that pass such laws, violating
individual liberty in an insane effort to sustain the War on Drugs, even
in an age
of terrorism where there's more reason than ever to set priorities about
government can-- and can't do.

Michael Grossberg

The Crimes of Pot Justice
When marijuana arrests might be death sentences
Brian Doherty

Last week a man was shivering and vomiting in a cold cell in Auburn,
California, at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Placer County, his urine
bloody, the
medicine he needs denied him.
His name is Steve Kubby. He was the Libertarian Party's 1998
candidate, and a major player in the crafting and passing of California's
Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized medical marijuana in
the state.
Kubby did not enjoy the protection of the law he helped pass. Prompted by
anonymous tip, police in California's Placer County began surveilling
home near Lake Tahoe in 1998, including digging through his garbage.
Eventually on January 19, 1999, 12 armed officers raided his home and
arrested him and
his wife, claiming to have found 265 pot plants. (More than half, Kubby
insists, were unsexed seedlings, and California law does not have a
numerical limit on personal use marijuana growth for medical marijuana
The warrant was obtained partially on the basis of claims that a
journalist who
had been seen visiting the Kubbys' home was in fact a known Jamaican drug
smuggler, according to a DEA report later found not to exist; Kubby is
certain his
prominence in the pro-marijuana movement made him a target.
Kubby is struggling with a rare and usually fatal form of adrenal cancer,
pheochromocytoma, which he has suffered from since the late 1960s. A
doctor who
helped treat him for the condition in the 1970s, Vincent DeQuattro of the
University of Southern California, was amazed, upon seeing Kubby's name in
California's voter guide during his gubernatorial race, to discover that
his old
patient was still alive. As High Times reported:
"In some amazing fashion," DeQuattro subsequently advised the judge in
Kubby's case, "this medication has not only controlled the symptoms of
pheochromocytoma, but in my view, has arrested growth" of the cancer.
"Every other patient
than Steve, with Steve's condition, has died in the interval of time [that
Kubby has had the disease.] Steve was the only survivor."

Kubby insists the only treatment he's taken in a long while for the
whose effects include sudden rushes of adrenalin and noradrenaline,
in high blood pressure spikes, headaches, and panic attacksâ?"is
marijuana; that
it, and only it, had kept him alive this long; and that without it, as he
is in Placer County lockdown, he'll likely die.
Is he right? Even with the grim reports of his vomiting, chills, and
urine this past week in jail, it's hard to be sure. He's merely one
and concerted research into such questions of marijuana's medical efficacy
hamstrung by restrictive federal regulations and supply constraints. But
right now his Placer County jailers are conducting a very dangerous
experiment to
test Kubby's theory. A Canadian doctor, Dr. Joseph M. Connors, chair of
Lymphoma Tumor Group at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, has testified
without his pot, Kubby is at high risk of suffering potentially fatal
attacks, seizures, or strokes from his cancer's effects.
Kubby was acquitted of the pot charges arising from the raid, but
in 2001 for some peyote buttons and a psychedelic mushroom the cops also
found. Before serving his term, he and his family left for Canada, where
spent the past five years. He, his wife Michele, and his two daughters
finally deported back to the U.S. last week. They were met at the San
airport by a gang of officers, Kubby was handcuffed and taken away,
avoiding the
press and well-wishers awaiting him in the airport, and ended up in Placer
County jail.
Kubby has become something of a cause célèbre because of his intimate
connections with the libertarian and medical marijuana communities. But
he's not the
only one suffering in prison because of lack of marijuana. In a similar
situationâ?"ill, in prison, denied marijuana that helps them cope or
survive their
illnessâ?"are Joe Fortt (in jail in Fresno, his T-cell count plummeting,
he'd been
using pot to cope with AIDS while free), Robert Schmidt (currently in
Leavenworth, a prison under full "lockdown," denied both medicine and
visitors), and
many others. Prisons in California may, at their discretion, but are not
required under the law, provide inmates with their medical marijuana-and
As of this writing, Kubby is being permitted the use of marinol, a
pharmaceutical synthetic THC, though not the whole marijuana plant. His
blood pressure
has stabilized and the blood has left his urine. (When he refused to take
standard blood pressure medicine, inappropriate for the spiked variety of
blood pressure his adrenal problems caused, they made him sign a waiver
his jailers of all responsibility for what might happen to him.) His
pre-trial hearing on a charge of failure to appear for probation is
scheduled for
February 15.
The Kubby case presents many unresolved controversies; is it really the
marijuana that has kept his adrenal cancer from killing him? Did his
status as a
felony fugitive arise from judicial misconduct? (His conviction was
for a misdemeanor, raised to a felony level by a judge during his appeals
process, which is what made his lack of appearance at a hearing because he
was in
Canada a crime. Kubby has filed a complaint with California's Commission
Judicial Performance, alleging the judge, who had been earlier recused
from his
case, was acting illegally.)
Whatever the final resolution of those questions, in Auburn, California,
man is in jail ultimately for growing a plant he believes helps him,
from cancer, his vitals erratic, deprived of medication that makes his
bearable. He has harmed no one, and is being harmed for it.

Brian Doherty is a senior editor of Reason and author of This Is Burning
(Little, Brown), whose paperback edition will be released by BenBella
in summer 2005.