Pubdate: Sat, 11 Sep 2010
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Orange County Register
Author: Steven Greenhut
Note: Steven Greenhut is editor of
Photo: Steve Kubby is a longtime activist for medical marijuana [ ]
Bookmark: (Kubby, Steve)


Sure, we're faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, but I'm 
heartened by the efforts of diverse groups of Californians to limit 
government and create a more freedom-friendly future.

I, as a nattering nabob, see negativism everywhere. The Legislature 
manages to do just about everything wrong. The Obama administration - 
like the Bush administration - is an embarrassment bordering on a 
disaster. Debt is rising, freedom is receding, and our governments 
keep getting bigger and more wasteful.

But even I can't avoid the hopeful signs apparent almost everywhere. 
I spoke Tuesday to about 300 conservatives in Silicon Valley about 
the problem of public employee pensions. This group was energized by 
local election prospects in November. It's a long shot for 
conservatives to expect big wins in the Bay Area, but don't try 
telling that to any of the activists who were in attendance. Up the 
road, in San Francisco, Public Defender Jeff Adachi jumped through 
the final legal hurdle recently and has placed a serious pension 
reform measure on the November ballot. If reform can happen in San 
Francisco, it can happen anywhere.

And Sept. 3, I spent the afternoon with Steve Kubby, the former 
Libertarian Party gubernatorial nominee and presidential candidate, 
who is running for City Council in South Lake Tahoe on an unabashedly 
freedom-oriented platform. This is no kamikaze mission. He has a 
serious shot at winning. South Lake Tahoe is a small city (population 
about 23,500), but his candidacy is the latest sign that Californians 
are trying to change things wherever they can. More Americans are 
taking this tack, as the tea partiers - despite their inconsistencies 
and flaws - seem to suggest.

Kubby is best known as a medical marijuana activist - a co-author of 
Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana in California for medical 
uses in 1996. He was targeted by state and federal agencies following 
that successful battle and served time in jail. He became something 
of a martyr for the movement because his jail term, which almost 
deprived him of his marijuana treatments, threatened his health. 
Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was given six months to live - 35 
years ago - and has been using marijuana as his sole medication ever 
since. Critics of medical marijuana say his story is merely 
anecdotal. "I didn't die," he said jokingly. "It is just anecdotal, 
but I'll take anecdotal."

His felony drug conviction not only was expunged, but was "dismissed 
in the interest of justice." The county sheriff personally apologized 
to him for his ordeal, yet city governments - including South Lake 
Tahoe's - have been trying to clamp down on the innocuous "wellness 
clinics" that provide marijuana to sick people who have a doctor's 

"For years, police said, if you don't like the law, change it," Kubby 
told me during our interview at a cafe near Lake Tahoe. "So we 
changed it." Yet officials continue to circumvent the law and 
prosecute clinics and growers. Since his release, Kubby has been 
developing a business that provides marijuana in lozenge form - thus 
eliminating the need for smoking - and is trying to take that product 
through federal drug-approval channels.

His story is full of entertaining tidbits. For instance, after he was 
diagnosed with cancer he was introduced to his life-saving marijuana 
by his college roommate, Richard "Cheech" Marin of Cheech & Chong 
fame. You can't make this stuff up.

Despite my persistent questioning, Kubby didn't want to focus on the 
subject of marijuana. "My [council] campaign is no more about 
marijuana than the Boston Tea Party was about tea," he said. He 
wanted to talk about South Lake Tahoe's punitive level of regulations 
on businesses, about "keeping government's big, ugly nose out of our 
lives," about protecting property rights and civil rights. And, about the hole.

Actually, he hates it when people refer to the site of a failed 
downtown redevelopment project as a hole. "I refuse to call something 
12 acres across a hole. It's a crater."

This crater sits along Lake Tahoe Boulevard at Stateline Avenue. 
Across Stateline, of course, lies Nevada and all the casinos. 
Officials used eminent domain and city pressure, Kubby explained, to 
level 44 businesses. The crater was intended to become a convention 
center. The deal collapsed, and the only thing built was the concrete 
foundation. It remains an eyesore and a sore spot with the city.

Kubby complains about South Lake Tahoe's $200 million in bonded 
redevelopment debt to fund what became the crater and other 
redevelopment projects, and about the subsidies the redevelopment 
agency ladles out to developers, who build cookie-cutter projects at 
odds with the city's mountain-resort charm.

"When did anyone get a chance to vote on this?" he said. "They never 
did. It strains my mind that a town can incur that kind of debt for 
45 years, and there was never a vote. Well, the council voted on it." 
The city has a history, by the way, of making poor redevelopment 
decisions and of abusing eminent domain.

"I'm participating in public debate about government's role," he 
said. "It's a liberal town. Liberals love government, but a lot of 
people are growing [medical] marijuana here and selling it. Marijuana 
is [helping to keep] this town solvent."

Kubby always turns the topic back to the basics of government. He 
thinks local roads at places resemble those found in Third World 
countries. He says "businesses have had it - they are so fed up with 
the rules, regulations and license fees." He wants to cut the number 
of city jobs and free up money that could spark new jobs in the private sector.

Kubby, a libertarian, wants to create a freedom revolution in his 
city. Just as those conservative activists in Silicon Valley want to 
enhance freedom in their region. And just as those San Francisco 
progressives want to reduce the power of the public employee unions 
in their union-controlled city. I'm still nattering about our 
seemingly insurmountable problems, but I'm also heartened by the 
efforts of diverse groups of Californians to limit government and 
create a more freedom-friendly future. The revolution has to start somewhere!
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake