Pubdate: Mon, 31 Jan 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-4712
Author: David Reyes, Times Staff Writer


Having moved to O.C., former governor candidate takes medical-use
fight to county government.

The man at the lectern said his message would be brief. And as the
five Orange County supervisors leaned back in their chairs, Steve
Kubby, articulate and well-dressed in a business suit, came right to
the point.

"Hi, I'm Steve Kubby. I'm a cancer patient and I use marijuana to stay

Kubby urged the board to enforce the state's medical-marijuana
initiative and also to provide "safe houses" where the seriously ill
can use the drug without fear of arrest or harassment by law

Supervisors and high-ranking county employees later said they admired
his brashness though some admitted they wouldn't touch such a liberal
issue "with a 10-foot pole."

Still, they can expect to hear from Kubby again--and again and

Kubby is arguably the state's most famous--and infamous--defender of
Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal
purposes. If not exactly a political household name, still he got a
measure of attention in 1998 as he ran for governor on the Libertarian

And just a couple of months later his name was in the headlines again
after he was arrested for allegedly growing 265 marijuana plants at
his home near Squaw Valley. The trial for him and his wife, Michele,
is set for February in Placer County.

In the meantime, Kubby has become an Orange County resident, moving
nearly a year ago with his wife and two children to Three Arch Bay, a
gated neighborhood in Laguna Beach. His wife gave birth to their third
child, a daughter, in December.

"I came because law enforcement here is more lenient," said Kubby, 53.
"Orange County has been a great sanctuary for us. We were in a county
that is the absolute worst county in California when it comes to
enforcing Proposition 215."

With him, Kubby has brought his battle over marijuana use--to the
supervisors, to the sheriff and to any other Orange County officials
who will listen.

He makes an unusual poster boy for the campaign.

Marijuana is most often used by cancer patients to counteract the
nausea caused by chemotherapy. But Kubby says he is using the drug to
treat the cancer itself. He said he has had adrenal cancer for 20
years--and that he is alive only because of marijuana.

Prosecutors declined to discuss his case, but in an interview last
year, they contended that the sheer volume of plants confiscated
indicates that they were not intended solely for personal medical use.
Kubby and his wife face charges of possession of marijuana and
conspiracy for sale.

Kubby says he grew a large quantity of the drug only to cull the best
for use against his illness. "We are not demonstrators, we are not
defending recreational marijuana use. We are organized for the
specific purpose of enforcing this law," Kubby said. "We're tired of
defending marijuana and that the law is right. We passed it. It's
there. It's been three years and it's been too long."

One of his doctors, Vincent DeQuattro, a USC professor of medicine,
says the marijuana somehow seems to keep Kubby's system from reacting
to the usually lethal doses of adrenal fluids that course through his
system because of the cancer. DeQuattro, a cardiologist who says he
has never prescribed medical marijuana, has submitted a letter to the
Placer County Superior Court saying, "Faith healers would term Steve's
existence these past 10-15 years as nothing short of a miracle. In my
view, this miracle, in part, is related to the therapy with marijuana."

Since his arrival, Kubby has formed a loosely organized statewide
group, the American Medical Marijuana Assn., to push for enforcing the
initiative on a county-by-county level.

"He has a lot of support down here," said Doug Scribner, 32, chairman
of the association's Orange County chapter and a Libertarian who
worked on Kubby's political campaign. In addition, Kubby's wife grew
up in Laguna Beach, where they both have relatives.

Support has also come in contributions. Kubby and his wife are living
off $65,000 in donations contributed by people around the country who
heard of their criminal case, he said. The couple had started an
Internet magazine, Alpine World, which they edited from home but which
was discontinued after the arrest.

Proposition 215 was intended to end the prosecution of patients who
could produce a doctor's recommendation that they use medical
marijuana to treat a variety of serious illnesses, including
AIDS-related diseases and cancer. Instead, a patient's chances of
being arrested and prosecuted for using marijuana depend largely on
where the patient happens to live or travel because there are no
statewide guidelines on enforcement.

The strategy of Kubby's medical marijuana association is to urge
elected county officials to "show leadership," have compassion for
sick patients and bring law enforcement, patients and the medical
community together to develop local guidelines.

* * *

Still, even some of the people fighting for the right to use marijuana
as medicine question Kubby's motivations.

"I can see Steve's in trouble because of his criminal case, and it's
in his best interest to get these counties to approve or allow growing
144 plants so when he goes to court up in Placer County he can argue
that some other counties allow it," said Scott Imler, director of the
Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, and coauthor of Proposition 215.

Anna Boyce of Mission Viejo, who also was an initiative author, agreed
that having guidelines for growing marijuana for patients would help
Kubby's case, but she denied that Kubby and his wife are drug dealers.

"Both Steve and his wife were growing for themselves," Boyce said.
"And you have to understand there were cases around the state charging
medical users with sales but there was no proof. This is their
medicine, their life, and if you're a diabetic, it's like somebody
coming into your home and taking your insulin away."

Members of Kubby's association have met and talked with officials in
San Diego, Humboldt, Ventura and Calaveras counties in addition to

Of those, only Calaveras has moved forward. It has appointed a
committee of physicians, patients, the district attorney and law
enforcement officials to start looking at how to implement the
initiative, said Brent Harrington, Calaveras county administrative

Charles V. Smith, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors,
said he would like to see more research before taking any action.
Kubby said supervisors have been cordial and expressed a desire to
meet with him but so far little progress with officials has been made.

Kubby also met with Sheriff Mike Carona and described him as "very
warm and supportive of our issue." Kubby said he lobbied to have
deputies stop seizing pot from sick people armed with a doctor's
recommendation to smoke marijuana.

He also had hoped to increase the county's threshold for an arrest
from the current 28.5 grams, or an ounce, to Oakland's more liberal
3.5 pounds for medical users.

Carona agreed that it was a good meeting, "from the standpoint that
there was open dialogue."

But the department's policy, which was carved out by former Sheriff
Brad Gates, who vehemently opposed the marijuana initiative, will
continue, Carona said.

"We're not trying to make criminals out of people who use marijuana
under [Proposition] 215," Carona said. "But the problem is that the
initiative tries to take marijuana and make it a medical property and
there's a lot of confusion with it."

Still unanswered are basic questions like what's a normal dosage and
how many plants are needed, he said.

"If this was a prescriptive drug then your doctor would know what
you're taking and how much," Carona said.

"This should have been put in the medical prescription arena and
unfortunately [Proposition] 215 put this in the law enforcement arena,
and I'm not sure it belongs there."

Carona also took exception to Kubby's claim that law enforcement in
Orange County is more lenient than elsewhere.

"I don't know what law enforcement is in Placer County, but I would be
shocked to find out that we here in Orange County are more lenient,"
he said.

Critics of Proposition 215 believe the initiative was overly broad and
left loopholes for illegal marijuana use.

"We were officially opposed to Proposition 215 because it violated
federal law and also because it was so broad it basically allowed the
availability of marijuana to spread tremendously to the wrong people,"
said Robert Elsberg, chairman of the California Peace Officer's Assn.
narcotics and alcohol committee.

As for Orange County's medical marijuana policy, Kubby said it poses a
"potentially lethal threat" to him and other patients. He recently
included the Orange County sheriff's response as proof that
Proposition 215 has not been implemented in a complaint regarding his
criminal case filed this month with the state Department of Justice.

The Kubbys face seven felony counts and several misdemeanors including
cultivation of marijuana for sale, conspiracy and possession of hash,
mescaline and mushrooms.

The drug case has thrust Kubby, who said he smokes pot daily to
control the rare form of cancer he has, into the forefront of the
battle over medical marijuana. He said the mushrooms and other drugs
were there because of a book he wrote on drugs and politics.

But until the trial starts, Kubby said, he will continue to push for
enforcement of the initiative in his newly adopted county.
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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson