Pubdate: Sat, 12 Apr 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun


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 hearing.

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

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 Department.

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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