Pubdate: Tuesday, November 2, 1999
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Page: A7
Author: Steve Mertl, Canadian Press


U.s., Canadian And California Laws Collide

VANCOUVER - An American woman's fight against extradition to the United
States to face drug-conspiracy charges is highlighting the two countries'
differing attitudes toward medical marijuana use.

Renee Boje has requested refugee status in Canada, claiming she's a
political pawn in the U.S. government's war on drugs.

The U.S. justice department is seeking Boje's extradition to Los Angeles to
face charges of conspiracy to manufacture and possession of marijuana for
the purposes of distribution.

Boje, 30, was arrested in 1997 outside the Bel Air, Calif., mansion of Todd
McCormick, where police said she and another woman were seen watering and
moving some of the 4,000 pot plants being cultivated there.

Boje, a New York artist who says she was hired by McCormick to do
illustrations for a book, has not admitted handling the plants.

Still, her supporters say McCormick was entitled to grow marijuana under a
California law allowing pot possession and cultivation for so-called
compassionate uses.

McCormick, who has cancer, had two doctors' prescriptions for medical pot,
said Maury Mason, a spokesperson for Boje's legal defence fund.

The plants were ostensibly for research into breeding the best strains for
medical use.

However, the U.S. government is ignoring the California law and going after
people growing pot for medical purposes, said John Conroy, Boje's Canadian

While medical marijuana is still illegal in Canada, federal Health Minister
Allan Rock has issued several ministerial permits to grow it and his
department is studying its use.

Boje, who lives in the coastal town of Gibson's, near Vancouver, made a
court appearance yesterday dressed in a peasant skirt and wearing sparkling

She said she came to Canada on the advice of her American lawyer after
charges against her were initially dropped.

They were reinstated after she got here.

"He advised me to leave the country because he didn't feel that he could
save me and I faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life," she said.

Boje was arrested in Canada last February when RCMP busted a
medical-marijuana growth operation at a house where she was staying in
Sechelt, B.C.

The arrest came to the attention of U.S. authorities, who filed for her

Boje said she believes that the U.S. district attorney wants her back in
order to force her to testify against McCormick in a trial that's scheduled
to start Nov. 16.

"I would never cut a deal with the DA but people that do cut deals with the
DA, they don't even get off," she said.

"They have to spend lots of time in prison."

Conroy said the case has become a cause celebre in California, where
McCormick is getting backing from supporters of medical marijuana,
including actor Woody Harrelson.

The legal wrangling could be lengthy.

The judge's ruling is subject to court appeal and also to a review by
Justice Minister Anne McLellan. 
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