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State of California v. Steve Kubby (1999-2006, Placer County, CA)

posted Jan 30, 2013, 12:55 AM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 15, 2013, 10:40 AM ]
Steve Kubby is an adrenal cancer patient, medical cannabis advocate, and author of two books on drug policy reform: The Politics of Consciousness and Why Marijuana Should Be Legal.  In 1999, Kubby and his wife Michele were arrested and faced trial for growing cannabis in their home, although they were legally entitled to do so as California medical patients under the 1996 Proposition 215 ballot initiative, which Kubby assisted in drafting and passing.

The Placer County Sheriff's Department began an investigation in response to an anonymous letter alleging that the Kubbys had been operating a major grow operation from their residence.  Steve Kubby passed a note through his own household trash, which the police had begun inspecting, addressed to law-enforcement personnel, advising them of Steve Kubby's use of medicinal marijuana, cancer condition, maintenance of a garden, and possession of no more than 3.5 pounds of pot.  The note was removed from his trash and entered as evidence by the prosecution. 

Kubby maintains that the prosecution was politically motivated by then-Attorney General Dan Lungren.  Lungren aggressively resisted the implementation of Proposition 215, going to far as to issue instructions to peace officers on how to cross-examine cannabis patients to undermine their claim of sanction.

At trial, Michele Kubby was acquitted on all charges. Owing to one juror's refusal to acquit, Steve Kubby received a mistrial on all the cannabis charges, which were eventually dropped. The jury also voted to convict on a possession charge involving a psilocybin mushroom stem and a few peyote buttons (a felony) found in their house. Kubby was sentenced to 120 days in jail.  While on appeal, Kubby moved to Canada, where he lived from 2001 until 2006.  He was immediately arrested and jailed upon his return to the United States in January 2006. 

In January 2006, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting Kubby and calling for his immediate release from jail.  On March 6, 2006, Kubby was released early from jail for good behavior.  At a March 14 hearing, he was re-sentenced to another 60 days in jail for violating his probation by not returning from Canada in 2001, and began serving the sentence on Wednesday, March 15.  Kubby was released on April 5 after serving only 22 days of the 60-day sentence, his time reduced because of jail overcrowding.


The War on Drugs Takes Another Hit
by Mike Gray

In the California Gold Rush town of Auburn the curtain has finally rung down on a remarkable criminal trial that has raised some disturbing questions about the government's long-running war on marijuana.

Steve Kubby, Libertarian candidate for governor in 1998, was arrested a short time later for growing too many marijuana plants. The key phrase here is "too many." Kubby is allowed to grow "some" marijuana because California Proposition 215 ñ which he campaigned for ñ permits medical use of the weed to qualified patients, and if anybody is qualified it would be Steve Kubby.
   
Diagnosed back in the 1970s with a rare form of adrenal cancer, Kubby was treated by Dr. Vincent DeQuattro of U.S.C., a leading authority on the disease. DeQuattro did what he could -- surgery, chemo, radiation -- but it was a delaying action. The cancer -- malignant pheochromocytoma ñ is not fatal in itself but it causes the adrenal glands to overwork, dramatically boosting blood pressure. You can drop dead of a heart attack or a stroke at any moment. Nobody lives longer than five years.
   
Dr. DeQuattro assumed Kubby had passed on long ago, then he opened the 1998 California voter's guide and there was his former patient running for governor. Dismayed, the doctor tracked him down and asked him what miracle had granted him this reprieve.
   
"Marijuana," said Kubby.
   
It seems he had abandoned the traditional treatment and switched to cannabis, smoking some 10 grams a day for the last 15 years.
   
Dr. DeQuattro's first reaction was to put Steve Kubby under a microscope. At the U.S.C. medical center he ran Kubby through an exhaustive two-week work-up. While the doctor is no fan of marijuana -- he had never recommended it -- the results convinced him that marijuana was somehow keeping Kubby alive.
   
Despite the passage of Proposition 215, however, Kubby and his wife were raided by narcotics agents in January of 1999 and charged with growing marijuana for sale.
   
At issue in the Auburn trial was the 200^ plants the deputies found in Kubby's basement ñ far too many for personal use said prosecutor Chris Cattran. But Cattran couldn't come up with credible evidence of commercial activity, and several defense experts testified that at Kubby's rate of consumption, his indoor garden was about right.
   
So the prosecutors began exploring another line of attack ñ the assumption that Mr. Kubby had somehow undergone a spontaneous remission and he was simply smoking reefer to get high.
   
To counter this charge, Kubby's lawyer called Dr. DeQuattro to the stand. In the cramped little Auburn courtroom, DeQuattro told the jury that Kubby's tumors are clearly visible on the x-rays but, for reasons he can't explain, the disease is apparently stabilized. What's more, the side-effects of smoking marijuana day and night for 15 years appear to be zero.
  
DeQuattro said his team tested Kubby for cognitive function before and after smoking and found his mind, memory and motor skills unimpaired. But the discovery that really jolted them was the lungs. Here they had a subject who admittedly smoked a couple hundred joints a month for 15 years -- a perfect opportunity to measure the damage from chronic high level consumption ñ but they couldn't find any. "His respiratory functions are the same as for someone who never smoked at all."
   
After deliberating for several days the jury hung 11-to-1 in favor of acquittal. Last week prosecutor Cattran threw in the towel. There will not be a retrial.
   
Despite marijuana's dramatic impact on Kubby, Dr. DeQuattro is not ready to recommend it to his other patients until he finds out how it works. Unfortunately, that information is hard to come by. Washington has financed plenty of marijuana research -- always looking for negative effects. Every other line of inquiry was squelched. The first formal studies of marijuana's effectiveness will not get underway until later this year -- decades after they were first proposed.
   
Now, thanks to anecdotal evidence like that unfolding up in Auburn, we are beginning to learn that marijuana may be something more than just an anti-nausea palliative. There is growing evidence here and abroad that this ubiquitous plant may in fact be a powerful healing agent with extensive and unknown applications. If it turns out to be a miracle drug instead of the devil weed, then the politicians who managed to thwart this research for the last thirty years will have some explaining to do.

Mike Gray, Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy, is the author of  Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out."
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