Pubdate: Sat, 12 Apr 2003
Source: Halifax Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2003 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


American Could Have Heart Attack, Stroke, Kidney Failure, Doctor Says

VANCOUVER -- Medical marijuana is the best treatment for an American 
refugee claimant suffering from a rare disease, a cancer specialist 
testified Friday.

Steve Kubby would have a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure if he did 
not take cannabis for medical purposes because other treatments would 
either be too dangerous or ineffective, Dr. Joseph Connors told a refugee 

Kubby has a large malignant tumour resulting from adrenal cancer and 
marijuana helps lower the excessive level of a chemical called 
catecholamine in his blood, said Connors, of the B.C. Cancer Agency.

It's normal for the catecholamine or adrenaline level in the adrenal gland 
to rise briefly when a person is extremely frightened or stressed, leading 
the heart to beat faster and the blood pressure to rise.

But a sustained high level of catecholamines is dangerous and needs to be 
suppressed, Connors said under questioning by lawyer Gordon Starr, opposing 
Kubby's refugee bid on behalf of Canada's Citizenship and Immigration 

Kubby, 57, moved to Sechelt, B.C., with his wife and two young daughters in 
May 2001.

Health Canada granted him permission last August to grow and smoke pot for 
medicinal purposes.

Kubby was convicted in the United States of possessing peyote and one magic 
mushroom stem and found not guilty of any marijuana offences.

But the former Lake Tahoe, Calif., resident's three days in jail without 
pot almost killed him, Kubby has said.

"I would expect that within hours of not using any marijuana -- 24 to 48 
hours maximum -- that he would begin to have high blood pressure, rapid 
heart rate and dry mouth ... and those symptoms would get worse in 
subsequent days," Connors said.

California passed Proposition 215 seven years ago to allow medicinal 
marijuana but patients who use it are still prosecuted by the United 
States' federal court.

Kubby said Connors had tried other treatments such as alpha blockers, but 
that they couldn't control the symptoms of his disease.

Chemotherapy to damage the cancer cells also wouldn't work for Kubby, who 
needs to deal with his catecholamine level on a daily basis, Connors said.

Kubby once tried an experimental radioactive treatment in Edmonton, 
although there isn't any evidence it had any effect on his tumour, the 
doctor said.

Kubby was diagnosed with adrenal cancer in 1975 and began using marijuana a 
few years later at the suggestion of a friend.

Connors said it's "remarkable" that Kubby has lived with his condition for 
so long when patients usually die within five years.

"He's had a much larger medical survival for his condition than is normally 
seen," said Connors, who sees virtually every adrenal cancer patient in 
British Columbia -- usually one to three people a year.

While patients with other types of cancers and illnesses take marijuana to 
relieve their symptoms, people like Kubby use it to survive, he said.

Although he hasn't known any other adrenal cancer patients who use pot, 
Connors said he was surprised to learn of its effectiveness from Kubby's 
case and would think about recommending it to others.

Kubby's wife Michele, who is representing him at the hearing but is not a 
lawyer, refused to question Connors because she said it would set a 
dangerous precedent to have doctors testify about the medical use of marijuana.

"If doctors believe they will be called before an inquiry such as this to 
explain their professional judgments, then doctors will only become 
reluctant to support medical cannabis patients."
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