Pubdate: Sun, 08 Sep 2002
Source: Deseret News (UT)
Copyright: 2002 Deseret News Publishing Corp.
Author: Clifford Krauss, New York Times News Service
Bookmark: (Walters, John)
Bookmark: (Boje, Renee)


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Four decades ago, a wave of American draft 
dodgers fled to Canada rather than fight in Vietnam. Some turned to 
planting marijuana seeds to make a living and spurred an underground 
industry that is now booming across British Columbia.

Over the past year or so, a new generation of Americans has flocked into 
western Canada, fleeing the Bush administration's crackdown on the clubs 
that say they provide marijuana to sick people, particularly in California.

A handful who face drug charges and convictions in the United States have 
applied for political asylum. Hundreds more American marijuana smokers live 
underground existences here, local marijuana advocates say.

Canada is in the awkward position in which it either must stand up to the 
United States - and encourage more refugees and asylum applications - or 
evict people who say they suffer from cancer and other deadly diseases.

While general use of marijuana is illegal in both countries, Canada has 
been far more tolerant of its use for medical purposes.

"It's an exodus," said Renee Boje, 32, a California fugitive from drug 
charges who has applied for refugee status. "Canada has a history of 
protecting the American people from its own government like during the 
Vietnam War, and the Underground Railroad that protected American runaway 

Most of the Americans here do not face charges at home, marijuana advocates 
say, but came because they can get the drug more cheaply and easily here 
now since the American clubs were shut down. "Compassion clubs" thrive in 
several Canadian communities to serve what they say are the medical needs 
of severe pain sufferers.

To Bush administration officials, the American fugitives are simply 
lawbreakers. "It's regrettable that people who are charged with criminal 
offenses in the United States don't face justice here and put a burden on 
another country," said John Walters, President Bush's drug policy chief.

Steven W. Tuck, a 35-year-old disabled veteran of the Army, fled to Canada 
pretending he was going fishing after his club was repeatedly raided and he 
faced drug charges. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and, fearing 
deportation, applied for refugee status.

Sitting recently in Vancouver's Amsterdam Cafe, where smoking marijuana is 
allowed, he was sweating and shaking while awaiting a friend who had gone 
out to buy some. "I have to have marijuana to stay alive," said Tuck, who 
said his torment began in 1987 with an Army parachuting accident that 
caused spinal and brain injuries.

If he is sent home and denied marijuana, Tuck says, he fears he will die 
"choking on my vomit in jail."
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