DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Medical Marijuana on Trial

This week, American medical marijuana laws are on trial in Canada as adrenal cancer patient Steve Kubby vies for protection from being returned to the United States where he would be prosecuted and perhaps die in jail for lack of his illegal medicine; and U.S. House Speaker Daniel Hastert affirms that he will not allow American medical marijuana patients to defend themselves in federal court, by barring them from mentioning the reasons for their marijuana use.

April 11 -- The Halifax Herald reports: A man seeking asylum in Canada because he smokes pot to fight a rare form of cancer would do well to stay out of the United States, where the "corrupt system" would prosecute him, a California judge testified Thursday.

"His chances would be overwhelming, I regret to say, of being tried and convicted," Judge James Gray of the Orange Country Superior Court said by phone at a refugee hearing for Steve Kubby. Kubby, a former California resident who now lives in Sechelt, B.C., said between puffs on a joint outside the hearing that he suffers from adrenal cancer and would die within four days if he didn't smoke marijuana.

Health Canada granted him permission last August to grow and smoke pot for medicinal purposes.

Although California's Proposition 215 allows for the medical use of marijuana, patients are still prosecuted by the federal court, whose laws trump state laws, Gray said.

And those who face a judge in federal court can't provide any evidence of medicinal use so the jury doesn't get to hear they aren't drug dealers, Gray said from Santa Ana, Calif.

"Mr. Kubby, I believe is in real serious legal trouble if he were to find himself back in California," Gray said under questioning by Kubby's wife Michele, who is not a lawyer but is representing him at the hearing.

Kubby was convicted in the United States of possessing peyote and one magic mushroom stem and found not guilty of any marijuana offences.

Kubby, who met almost Gray three years ago at a public function, said outside the hearing that he was placed on probation and doesn't want to return home because he'd immediately be arrested and put in jail, where he wouldn't survive.

Federal law enforcement officials are getting more "extremist" with medicinal pot users and have gone so far as to arrest dying patients in a hospice, Gray said.

In one case, an ill woman who couldn't stand up was handcuffed to her bed, he claimed.

"I love my country deeply ... but what I've seen here in the federal government is appalling," Gray said under questioning by lawyer Gordon Starr, opposing Kubby's refugee bid on behalf of Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Department.

The American government is specially keen to convict high-profile individuals like Kubby, the judge said of the man who once ran for governor of California as a Libertarian candidate.

Proposition 215, the California initiative that approved medical marijuana use, has made no difference to the federal government.

April 11 -- The Oakland Tribune reports: House Speaker Dennis Hastert will not support federal legislation to protect pot growers and smokers in states such as California, where medical marijuana is legal, a spokesman for the Republican leader said Thursday.

Dealing an early and likely fatal blow to the future of the legislation inspired by the recent conviction of Oakland cannabis grower Ed Rosenthal, Hastert spokesman John Feehery said, "I doubt very seriously that the speaker would support that kind of provision."

The Truth in Trials Act, sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Monterey, and supported by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and most other Bay Area Democrats, would let individuals accused of violating federal marijuana laws introduce evidence showing they possessed, cultivated or distributed pot in accordance with state laws.

"This is about due process. It's not about pot," Farr said.

Rosenthal was convicted in February on federal marijuana charges that carry a five-year minimum sentence. Although Rosenthal said he grew pot under California's medical marijuana law and the protection of a city ordinance, a judge refused to allow it to be mentioned at trial.

When asked if he felt this was a states' rights issue, Feehery said, "Not necessarily." In this case, he said, the state laws are wrong. "Anti-drug laws should be strengthened, not weakened."

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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