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
Author: Eric Bailey
Bookmark: (Kubby, Steve)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


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

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

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.