L A Times story on Candidate Faces Trial in Medical Marijuana Case

Mike Steindel (CLaw7MAn@webtv.net)
Fri, 16 Apr 1999 00:21:26 -0700 (PDT)

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This story was on page three of the Los Angeles times... A photo of
Steve,  Michele and their daughter was also on the page. A link to the
times is included at the bottom of the e-mail. mike...
also see  www.kubby.com  
Thursday, April 15, 1999 
Ex-Candidate Faces Trial in Medical Marijuana Case  
 Courts: Libertarian entrant in last year's governor race claims that
smoking pot has controlled his rare cancer. 
By ERIC BAILEY, Times Staff Writer

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif.--Before the bust, Steve Kubby's claim to fame was
political trivia at best: Just who was last year's Libertarian candidate
for governor? 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Then came the January day that narcotics officers raided
Kubby's home on a scenic slope near the Squaw Valley ski resort. Agents
confiscated 265 marijuana plants growing in the basement and arrested
the politician and his wife. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The drug case has thrust Kubby, who said he smokes pot
daily to control a rare form of cancer, into the forefront of the
roiling battle over medical marijuana. It comes at a pivotal juncture in
the fight. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Last month, a federal advisory panel declared that pot
has therapeutic merits for patients with AIDS or cancer. Meanwhile,
advocates are hopeful that last year's Democratic political sweep in
California--and the departure of Republican drug warrior Dan Lungren as
attorney general--will yield a friendlier environment for patients who
smoke marijuana. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0That hasn't been the case even with approval of
Proposition 215, California's landmark 1996 medical marijuana
initiative. Despite the new law, drug agents closed cannabis clubs in
numerous cities. Overall, marijuana arrests statewide jumped to a record
57,677 in 1997, the law's first year of life. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Dozens of people have tried to use the law as a shield
against prosecution, but few have succeeded. Kubby's case promises an
unusual test. Although other patients say the drug helps them cope with
illness, Kubby goes farther. Marijuana, he contends, has kept him alive. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby was diagnosed in the 1970s with a type of cancer
that attacks the adrenal glands and typically kills within five years.
Early on, he suffered through operations, chemotherapy and radiation.
But for the last 20 years his most regular form of treatment has been

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"As long as I have pot, I can lead an active and healthy
life," said Kubby, 52. "I can be as physical and intellectual as any
other adult. Without this medicine, I would drop dead in a few days." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Prosecutors aren't even debating Kubby's tale of herbal
success. Instead, they contend the number of plants Kubby and his
33-year-old wife, Michele, cultivated were too many for personal medical

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Authorities have charged the couple with possession of
pot for sale as well as other felony counts for small amounts of
hashish, psychedelic mushrooms and peyote buttons found at their home. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"If the jury feels 265 plants is sufficient for medical
use, then justice is done," said Christopher Cattran, a Placer County
deputy district attorney. "If they decide 265 plants is too much, then
justice is done, too." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The case is set for trial May 18 in Auburn. Kubby refuses
to plea bargain, though he could face a decade in prison if convicted on
all charges. He claims he is a victim of political persecution by the
district attorney and said his case will be "the Scopes monkey trial of
medical marijuana," a pronouncement that has even some allies rolling
their eyes. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0In Kubby's corner is Dr. Vincent DeQuattro, a USC medical
school professor. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0A cardiologist who specializes in hypertension illnesses,
DeQuattro treated Kubby more than two decades ago, but eventually
referred him to cancer specialists in the Midwest and lost track of him.
The doctor figured Kubby, like most others with the rare illness, had

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Then he saw Kubby's picture--smiling and looking quite
well--in the voters pamphlet for last November's election. DeQuattro
said he was "flabbergasted Steve was still alive." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0He contacted the politician and performed tests,
discovering lethal levels of adrenal fluids--10 to 20 times
normal--coursing through Kubby's system. Under such conditions a patient
usually has blood pressure that skyrockets and faces the risk of heart
attack or stroke. Kubby's system remains somehow in check. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"I have no other way to deduce but that marijuana is
controlling it," said DeQuattro, who is continuing to study Kubby. "I've
never prescribed medical marijuana, I'm not an advocate, I don't use it.
But in some way his therapy has kept him alive." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Sophisticated Growing Area 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby said he began growing pot soon after voters
approved the state's medical marijuana law, which he helped to promote.
He developed a sophisticated little plantation in the basement of his
sprawling rental house. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Though now stripped clean by drug agents, it once
featured blowers, a carbon dioxide generator, special air filters and
grow lights hard-wired to timers. At the time of the arrest, narcotics
agents said, 107 plants were capable of producing smokable marijuana.
The rest were immature plants, some just seedlings. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The bounty of his basement garden will be a key issue in
his upcoming trial. During a preliminary hearing last month, a state
drug agent testified that the size of Kubby's crop indicated he was
operating a "commercial grow" that could have produced 20 pounds of
finished product. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby, however, said his indoor operation was yielding
far less than that, and all of it was for himself and his wife, who
smokes pot to control pain caused by a bowel condition she has suffered
for more than five years. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0He said he regularly throws away a lot of his crop,
winnowing out inferior strains, and that he usually smokes only half a
joint, reasoning the drug's medicinal effects are best when drawn
through unburned cannabis. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"I was trying to grow the absolute best medicine
possible," Kubby said. "I figured the better the medicine, the less I
have to grow and smoke. I was working for stuff that didn't make me
stupid or stoned or have the munchies." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby also has an explanation for the mushrooms and other
drugs found in his home: he said he had them on hand because of a book
he wrote on drugs and politics. The Kubbys said they are undergoing
tests to prove they only consumed cannabis. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Like his brand of medicine, Kubby's career path has been
anything but ordinary. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0In his 20s, he ran an outdoor camp teaching wilderness
living to teenagers. Later, while fighting the cancer, Kubby founded a
ski magazine and got into politics. Michele Kubby worked at a San
Francisco brokerage house before the couple's 3-year-old daughter was
born. Several years ago, they started an Internet magazine, Alpine
World, which they edited from home. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The Kubbys first came to the attention of narcotics
agents last summer, as he campaigned at the top of the Libertarian
ticket. Tahoe drug agents got an anonymous letter containing a
provocative tip. Kubby, it said, was growing pot to finance his campaign
for governor. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby denies the allegation, suggesting it was dreamed up
by some foe troubled by his pro-pot stance on the stump. He talked
openly about his own use of marijuana for cancer during the campaign. On
election day he finished fourth, with 1% of the vote. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Off and on during the campaign, drug agents were keeping
an eye on the Kubby home. They picked through the family's garbage,
peered through open windows and interviewed friends. Cattran, the
prosecutor, said agents discovered marijuana seeds, leafy residue and
other signs that Kubby was growing plants. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Along with the garbage were notes from Kubby. Tipped off
about the surveillance early on, Kubby began leaving letters in his
trash bin telling drug agents that he was a medical marijuana patient
protected by Proposition 215. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Those missives didn't help. Two months after election
day, agents outfitted in bulletproof vests raided the couple's home.
Steve and Michele Kubby were jailed for several days after the Jan. 19
arrest before being released on their own recognizance. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0During his incarceration, Kubby said, his blood pressure
soared, as jailers scoffed at the notion he be allowed to smoke pot to
control the condition. Officers, he recalled, "told us repeatedly:
Proposition 215 may be fine in San Francisco, but it doesn't fly in
Placer County." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0In recent weeks, the couple have vacated the Tahoe rental
house--too many bad memories, they say--and moved in with relatives in
Orange County. Kubby said he and his wife recently declared bankruptcy.
They say they have been hamstrung to publish their Internet ski magazine
because agents seized computer software and equipment. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"He's not a pot millionaire," said Dale Gieringer,
California coordinator for the National Organization to Reform Marijuana
Laws. "The guy's broke." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Putting Muscle Behind Prop. 215 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The politician's plight has outraged others in the
Libertarian Party, who awarded him their "Sons of Liberty Award" at a
recent state convention. Party elders are feeling battered, noting that
Los Angeles author and medical marijuana proponent Peter McWilliams was
arrested in July after a speech at the Libertarian national convention
blasting national drug policy. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby's legal prospects remain uncertain. Many medical
marijuana defendants have been found guilty in court, despite
Proposition 215. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0An exception was the case of Charles Lepp, a 46-year-old
Vietnam War veteran acquitted in December of charges that he grew
marijuana for sale in rural Lake County. Lepp said his 131 plants
provided pot for a variety of ailments, including chronic back pain,
post-traumatic stress disorder and manic depression. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Kubby's attorney hopes the upcoming trial will have an
impact beyond the courtroom, helping push state lawmakers to adopt
cleanup legislation clarifying Proposition 215, which has been attacked
as too ambiguous by law enforcement officials. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"Right now, nobody knows how much pot is too much," said
Dale E. Wood, Kubby's Truckee attorney. "That question just can't be
answered arbitrarily. In one county it might be a few plants is OK, in
another a lot more might be allowed." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0As one of the people who helped put Proposition 215 on
the ballot, Kubby said he feels a personal responsibility to push ahead
with his case. He contends that pot patients in many parts of California
now are actually at a greater risk than before the initiative. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Since 1991, marijuana arrests statewide have jumped 72%,
including a slight increase in the year after voters passed Proposition
215, according to the state Department of Justice. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"Our task," Kubby said, "is to win in the jury box what
we couldn't win in the ballot box." 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Michele Kubby has a more basic desire--to see her husband
stay alive. 

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"If the jury sends Steve off to jail, they'll kill him,"
she said. "That's what they'll have on their conscience, that's what
they'll do." 

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved 

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