Pubdate: Sun, 14 Feb 1999
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Peter H. King


The only thing government can do is crack down on crime. By making more and
more things a crime -- that's how government is able to expand its
power. --Steve Kubby, Libertarian Party candidate for governor, in an
interview last September

OLYMPIC VALLEY -- For more than an hour, the candidate had sat in a Fresno
coffee shop, merrily lobbing one rhetorical hand grenade after another.
Steve Kubby was against the death penalty and for an open border. He
regarded speeding tickets as literal "highway robbery," thought Central
Valley farmers should be growing hemp, opposed seat belt laws and
gun-control laws alike. His most passionately held position, however,
involved the nation's "War on Drugs," which he described as a "failure" that
overloaded prisons and "made millionaires out of thugs."

For Kubby, a 52-year-old electronic magazine publisher, this issue was
personal. More than 20 years earlier, he had been diagnosed with an
extremely rare and typically fatal form of cancer. To the mystification of
medical authorities, Kubby discovered that marijuana alleviated his symptoms
and apparently kept the cancer in check. He became a proponent of medicinal
marijuana, and in 1996 played a major role in the successful campaign for
Prop. 215, which theoretically made pot legal medicine in California.

Now, with the interview winding down, the otherwise free-wheeling politician
asked to go off the record. Kubby confided he was concerned about drug
police payback. He had received a tip: A stakeout of his Lake Tahoe
residence was under way. Specifically, he had been warned to watch out for a
green Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows. He wasn't sure whether to believe
this, and he did not want to come across in a campaign interview as a
caricature of pot-induced paranoia.

Still. ...

Jump ahead now to a Tuesday morning in mid-January. Kubby's wife,
Michelle -- who also takes marijuana, with a doctor's endorsement, for a
chronic stomach ailment -- was playing with her 3-year-old daughter. She saw
a green Jeep drive by. A few minutes later came the knock on the door. "We
have a search warrant," the lead officer announced, and in trooped a dozen
or more investigators.

They moved to the basement, where Kubby was growing the marijuana that he
maintains keeps him alive. In the well-equipped "growing rooms," the
officers found about 130 mature plants and an equal number of seedlings. The
discovery should not have come as a surprise; Kubby had not exactly been
covering his tracks. In fact, since the tip about the stakeout, he had been
placing "attention law enforcement" notes in the trash, explaining his
medical condition and acknowledging the cultivation of marijuana. He had
guessed -- accurately, it turned out -- that the garbage would be searched.

According to law enforcement files, the investigation had been triggered
last July by an unsigned letter. It accused Kubby of growing more than a
thousand plants and selling pot to finance his political campaign.
Investigators began a surveillance, peering through his back windows from
the woods behind the house. After they observed Kubby showing a plant to a
man they believed to be a customer -- he was, Kubby would say, a
correspondent for High Times magazine -- they obtained the search warrant.

Four hours into the search, Steve and Michelle Kubby were handcuffed and
loaded into a vehicle for the ride to jail, where they would be booked for
investigation of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale. Before
they left, Kubby asked if he could take some of his "medicine" with him. No,
the investigator said, the jail had a "no-smoking policy."

The Kubbys have pleaded not guilty, contending they never sold marijuana and
their crop was not excessive. Among medical marijuana proponents there is
hope that a trial might shine needed light on what they see as a refusal by
law enforcement authorities to accept and abide by Prop. 215. For his part,
the Placer County prosecutor handling the case has told reporters that "if a
jury decides that 265 plants are all right, then that is justice. But if the
jury decides it's just too much, justice is done then, too."

While Kubby was in jail, awaiting release on his own recognizance, his
original physician urged the judge by letter not to deprive the prisoner of
his marijuana. Dr. Vincent DeQuattro of the USC Medical Center noted that
Kubby's condition -- malignant pheochromocytoma, or adrenal cancer -- is
almost always fatal. In fact, the doctor added, until he received his voter
pamphlet last fall, he'd assumed that Kubby, whom he had not seen for more
than a decade, was dead.

"Faith healers," wrote DeQuattro, "would term Steve's existence these past
10-15 years as nothing short of a miracle. In my view, this miracle, in
part, is related to the therapy with marijuana."

Unfortunately, the fight over medical marijuana never has seemed to have
much to do with medicine. It's more about power, about who gets to make the
rules. And the passage of Prop. 215, it would seem, settled nothing.

PETER H. KING's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Bee. Write him
at P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, 95852, or call (916) 321-1892; - ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck