Tracknum: 887.b65b6193.a0f5.steve Pubdate: Tue, 12 Dec 2000 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times Contact: Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053 Fax: (213) 237-7679 Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Forum: http://www.latimes.com/discuss/ Author: Eric Bailey Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/kubby.htm (Kubby, Steve) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal) KEY MEDICAL MARIJUANA TRIAL NEARS END Court: Drawn-Out Case Against Ex-Libertarian Party Candidate And His Wife, Which Has Drawn Attention And Big-Name Lawyers, Is Set To Wrap Up This Week. AUBURN, Calif.--Between the red brick walls of a cramped courtroom here, a long-running show trial of sorts over the medical use of pot is near its climax. The defendant is a 1998 Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate and early backer of Proposition 215, the landmark 1996 medical marijuana measure. The case features big-name defense attorneys, accusations of a political witch hunt and countercharges of Rambo-style defense tactics. Buffeted by legal back and forth, the worn-out jury showed up on Halloween dressed in costumes. After nearly three months of courthouse haggling preceded by more than a year of procedural delays, the drug trial of Steve Kubby and his wife, Michele, is set to wrap up this week. The couple stand accused by Placer County prosecutors of cultivating pot for sale with a sophisticated commercial operation in their home a few miles from the Squaw Valley ski resort. Narcotics detectives seized 265 marijuana plants of various sizes during a raid in January 1999. Kubby doesn't dispute that he nurtured the plants and smoked the pot. But he says his life depended on it. Marijuana has somehow kept his rare form of adrenal cancer at bay, Kubby insists, and helps his wife cope with bouts of irritable bowel syndrome. He and his defense team have argued endlessly in court that none of the marijuana was for sale. Whatever the verdict, it is sure to provide a symbolic nudge one way or another as California continues to grapple with the aftershocks of its groundbreaking medical marijuana initiative. The measure, which spawned a flood of copycat initiatives in other states, failed to set concrete guidelines for how much can legally be cultivated and consumed. "If we win, there will be too much public humiliation for the district attorneys around the state to continue this war on sick people," Kubby said one recent day outside court. "This fight is no more about marijuana than the Boston Tea Party was about tea. It's about freedom; it's about the authorities refusing to honor a law passed by the people." There have been several medical marijuana cases with more plants involved. In July, the trial of a Modesto woman for cultivating 370 plants--she said they helped her asthma, depression, arthritis and other ills--ended with a hung jury. But few of the scores of cases prosecuted since 1996 have been as fiercely fought or featured as colorful a character as Kubby, dark-haired and vigorous at 54 despite his medical maladies. The runner-up last summer for the vice president spot on the Libertarian ticket, Kubby plans to run once again for statewide office at the trial's conclusion. In the meantime, Kubby has imported a fair share of legal star power. J. Tony Serra, a nationally prominent anti-establishment attorney known for his spirited and highly successful defense work on behalf of counterculture clients, has cut a transfixing figure in the tiny courtroom, white ponytail hanging just below a pink bald spot. J. David Nick, who has made a mark as a formidable lawyer on medical marijuana cases, has contentiously confronted prosecutors both in and out of the courtroom. In laying out the case against Kubby, prosecutors argued that the defendant's pot operation could have produced 25 pounds of marijuana, far more than needed for a medical purpose. The defense countered with a federal drug enforcement study suggesting that Kubby's operation would have yielded one-eighth of that amount. They also noted that his crop was hard hit early on by the bane of any indoor gardener: mold and spider mites. Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Cattran revealed that Kubby had taken in $103,000 over an 18-month period from various cannabis buyer's clubs before his arrest. Kubby's defense countered that the money was contributions for his advocacy efforts on behalf of Proposition 215. Likewise, the defense team explained away Kubby's scales as a needed device to measure accurate amounts for each cigarette. And they brushed aside a sheet of paper rife with calculations of pot's street value as the simple computations Kubby made as he figured what he would have to pay if forced to shut down his operation. The prosecutor also tried to call two doctors to the stand to refute claims by Kubby's physician, Dr. Vincent DeQuattro, a USC medical school professor who is convinced that pot is helping keep Kubby alive. But the defense persuaded the judge to bar the prosecution doctors from testifying. Kubby faces a decade in prison if convicted on all charges, a term he says would be a death sentence. The rare form of cancer he has harbored for a quarter-century typically kills within five years.