Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2005
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Vancouver Courier
Author: Geoff Olson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


"The history of the 'war on drugs,' and more specifically the 
well-documented history of marijuana legislation, makes it clear that 
the goals of the repeatedly declared 'wars' have little to do with 
availability and use of harmful substances, and a lot to do with what 
is called 'population control' in the literature of 
counterinsurgency. The targets are both at home and 
abroad-overwhelmingly the poor and defenseless... The 'war on drugs' 
has the dual function of eliminating the disposable people (being 
civilized, we lock them up rather than murdering them) and 
frightening the rest, and has been cynically used for these purposes. 
The case of Renee Boje illustrates this cynical abuse of power..."

- -Noam Chomsky

Last week Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler denied North 
Vancouver resident Renee Boje's application to remain in Canada as a 
refugee. Even though she is married to a Canadian and has a 
three-year-old son, the slight, soft-spoken 34-year-old faces 
extradition to the U.S. and the possibility of a "mandatory minimum" 
sentence-meaning 10 years to life in a federal prison.

In 1997, the young art student approached a man smoking a joint in a 
Hollywood caf, and asked how he could be so bold. The conversation 
with writer Todd McCormick, who suffered from AIDS, led to a 
discussion of California's newly adopted Proposition 215, the 
compassionate care act, which allowed seriously ill people to 
purchase and use marijuana under a doctor's recommendation. McCormick 
then commissioned Boje, an art student, to illustrate a book he was 
writing on medicinal marijuana. Renting a stucco mansion in Bel Air 
with proceeds from the book's advance, he gathered together 
assistants and activists to work on the project, breeding various 
marijuana strains openly on the property.

The overabundance of plants alerted authorities at the apex of the 
judicial pyramid. Under U.S. federal law, marijuana was and is a 
schedule one drug with severe penalties attached. On her way home one 
day from the mansion, Boje was apprehended by officers who told her 
they had seen her through binoculars, watering plants at the mansion.

Although she had nothing in her possession, police strip-searched 
Boje multiple times over the next 72 hours, and released her without 
charges. But the feds were determined to bring down proposition 215, 
and wanted a slam-dunk case against McCormick and his publisher, 
Peter McWilliams, an AIDS sufferer. The duo's "cannabis castle" had 
become the Holy Grail of federal drug enforcement. Boje's lawyer 
advised her to flee up north, fearing that if Boje continued to 
refuse to testify against her friends, she could face the reefer 
madness "mandatory minimum" upon conviction. Boje had begun to 
research the U.S. federal-industrial prison complex, and abuse of 
female prisoners documented by Amnesty International. She followed his advice.

At the Canada/U.S. border, Boje's dropped marijuana charges came up 
on the computer. No biggie; she was in, and on her way to B.C.'s 
Sunshine Coast. Aided financially by local cannabis activists, Boje 
founded a local compassion club. The Californian native was in deep, 
her identity now irrevocably tied to weed. She appeared on Mark 
Emery's Pot TV in a show called "The Healing Herb," which broadcast 
updates on the fight for medicinal marijuana. Emery, head of the B.C. 
Marijuana Party, also put up a good deal of money to help with her 
legal appeals.

McCormick and McWilliams, too sick to flee anywhere, ended up in a 
U.S. federal court, where neither was allowed to discuss medicinal 
marijuana, proposition 215, or even their own illnesses. With his 
bail secured by his mother's house, McCormick didn't dare use 
cannabis, which he usually took to keep from throwing up his AIDS 
medication. He was found dead in his bathroom, having choked on his 
own vomit. McWilliams, sentenced to five years in a federal prison, 
asked prison officials for access to the synthetic marijuana drug 
Marisol to manage his pain. The jailers didn't just refuse-they 
tested him for drug use, and summarily threw him into solitary after 
he tested positive. (The publisher claimed the result came from use 
prior to his imprisonment, since THC, marijuana's active ingredient, 
remains in the bloodstream for up to a month.)

Boje will appeal Cotler's ruling when she appears in court again on 
September 30. The dual irony would be comic, if it weren't so tragic. 
The Canadian government, which has refused refugee status to the 
California native, routinely does the very thing she is accused of 
(in our case, growing substandard weed in Flin Flon for limited 
medicinal use). As for the U.S. government, it appears to be itching 
to plant a lovely, gentle soul in the one place any convicted 
American can find drugs: a federal penitentiary.
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