Pubdate: Tue, 17 Sep 2002
Source: Times-Standard (CA)
Copyright: 2002 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Author: Thomas D. Elias


It's not exactly an underground railroad even if it ends in Canada, which 
was also the northern terminus of the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad 
that assisted runaway slaves.

Today's exodus of medical marijuana patients driven from their American 
homeland is not underground at all, but quite public, as the federal 
government simply won't allow them to use pot for alleviating pain or other 
symptoms of diseases like AIDS and cancer -- no matter what the majority of 
voters in their home states may say.

But there are definite similarities between today's flight to Canada and 
that of slaves who sought freedom, beyond merely the destination. Both 
cases involve desperate people willing to depart from friends and family to 
escape a situation they find intolerable and unjust. And as in the 1850s, 
some state and local officials today are willing to defy federal edicts 
they see as unjust or inhumane.

The current northward flight, made up mostly of California, was growing 
exponentially even before two events this month assured it would quickly 
accelerate. One came when Health Canada, that country's national health 
agency, granted a permit allowing ex-Californian Steve Kubby to grow all 
the pot he needs for his anti-cancer therapy.

Kubby, the 1998 Libertarian Party candidate for governor, still faces a 
pot-raid misdemeanor jail term in Place County if he ever returns to 
California. And he could be forced to come back, even though he1s been told 
he wouldn1t be allowed marijuana in custody and he and his doctors are 
convinced this would mean certain death from the adrenal cancer he's been 
fighting off since the 1970s. For while Health Canada has backed Kubby, 
Immigration Canada still has an extradition proceeding pending against him. 
Nevertheless, his growing permit stands as a beacon to other patients who 
feel their needs are equally urgent.

The second event was a Drug Enforcement Administration raid on the Santa 
Cruz pot farm of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which long 
had the public support of the county sheriff and other local officials. The 
group for years provided free pot to medical users, issuing identification 
recognized by local authorities. It was never accused of trying to sell 
marijuana to anyone who wasn1t a patient in need. Local officials still 
support the group so strongly that after the raid, they invited its leaders 
to distribute pot to registered patients in a City Hall courtyard Sept. 17.

The DEA raid was a loud shot across the bow of the entire medical marijuana 
movement, not just in California but all across America.

It signaled that no matter how involved the federal Department of Justice 
might be with fighting terror and trying to find missing kidnapped 
children, it will never let up on patients using marijuana, even when they 
desperately need something to ease their pain and have doctors' 
prescriptions and terminal medical diagnoses.

The feds justified their latest action, in which agents seized more than 
150 pot plants and four guns, by citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that 
earlier this year found federal drug laws take precedence over California's 
1996 Proposition 215 and similar laws legalizing medicinal marijuana in the 
only other six states where it's been voted on.

The court decision and the congressional failure to legalize medipot both 
carry a pre-Civil War sense of deja vu. Back then, lawmakers refused to 
outlaw slavery for political and economic reasons. Lawmakers today refuse 
to act for political reasons, fearing they'd be labeled pro-drug.

And the Supreme Court's adamant refusal to recognize the public's will on 
medipot echoes the disgraceful Dred Scott decision that forced Northern 
states to return runaway slaves to their owners in the old South.

The state official most in opposition to the federal actions today is 
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who protested the U.S. Attorney General John 
Ashcroft that the Santa Cruz raid was a provocative and intrusive incident 
of harassment by federal agents. Lockyer, a Democrat who seeks re-election 
now and hopes to run for governor in 2006, charged federal raids like the 
one in Santa Cruz and earlier actions against medipot clubs in Los Angeles 
and Oakland, undermine joint efforts to fight dangerous drugs and the major 
narcoterrorist organization that manufacture and distribute them.

While his protest lacks both the moral outrage and the eloquence of those 
by abolitionists in the 1850s, it's still an indication that the Justice 
Department again has cast justice aside to assert its authority over the 

The open question today: How many Americans, and especially Californians, 
will have to leave home and seek shelter abroad before Congress and the 
rest of the federal government wake up and act both sensibly and morally?
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens