Pubdate: Thu, 2 Sep 1999
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 1999 - The Buffalo News
Address: P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY, 14240
Fax: 716-856-5150
Author: Barry Brown, 416-778-8606


(TORONTO 9-2-99) A 29-year old American woman is seeking refugee status in
Canada, claiming she is a political victim of America's marijuana wars.

According to U.S. prosecutors, Renee Boje has admitting moving some
marijuana plants and watering others, in 1997, at the home of a wealthy
California man who was growing a large amount of marijuana, allegedly for
research into its medical uses.

Charged under U.S. federal conspiracy laws, Boje faces a minimum 10-year
prison sentence if convicted, according to her lawyer, John Conroy of
Abbotsford, British Columbia.

When state police raided the home of marijuana activist and medical
marijuana-user Todd McCormick at his Bel Air mansion, they found 4,000
plants, and Boje was charged along with McCormick and a host of his
followers. But when it was learned Boje was at MCormick's home to discuss
providing artwork for his upcoming book on how to grow medical marijuana,
the charges against her were dropped.

But in February, when U.S. prosecutors intervened in the case, Boje was
charged along with the rest with conspiracy to manufacture and sell
marijuana to Hollywood stars.

However, just before the grand jury handed down their decision, Boje learned
of the impending indictment, and slipped over the border into B.C.

Now, Conroy and Boje's refugee lawyer, will challenge the U.S. request for
her extradition on a number of grounds, including that her prosecution is
based in a politically-motivated fight between the U.S. federal government
and the State of California, over that state's Proposition 215 which
legalized marijuana for medical use.

"I will try to convince the court and the (Canadian) Minister of Justice,
and the court after the minister (that reviews the ministerial decision),
that this is a political issue and she should not be extradited for a
political offense," Conroy said.

The political nature of her prosecution, he added, is evident in the way
U.S. prosecutors are doing everything they can to keep a legally passed
proposition law out of the case.

Another issue is proportionality of punishment, he explained, a common
factor in deciding extradition hearings. A similar offense in Canada, he
said, would likely result in nothing more than a fine.

Along with these issues, Conroy plans to put the entire U.S. justice system
on trial in Canada, by citing Amnesty International and United Nations
reports on the widespread abuse of women in U.S. prisons.

"There are now something like 1.8 million prisoners in the U.S., and 70
percent of them are there because of the war on drugs. That's one out of
every 134 people. It's become the land of the unfree," he said.

Boje's refugee claim, he explained, centers on the question of whether
America's marijuana penalties violate international law by severely
punishing people for a behavior that causes no harm to others or society as
a whole. And if so, whether that makes Boje a victim of prosecution because
of her political belief in the use of medical marijuana and her association
with others of similar mind.

"It's now acceptable to interfere in what other countries do to protect
human rights," he added, with a nod to NATO's invasion of Serbia, "or does
that only apply to the U.S. under the guise of NATO?"

If a Canadian court or refugee panel supports Boje's claim, she would not be
the first to be granted asylum from U.S. prosecution.

Last month, Norway's supreme court blocked the extradition of an American
charged with smuggling hashish. The Norwegian court ruled the man would face
"inhumane" conditions in U.S. jails.

Adding to the Canadian legal issues, are recent decisions by the federal
government to legalize marijuana for controlled medical use, and several
court challenges to the federal government's right to maintain criminal laws
against marijuana.

In Canada, all criminal law is federal, and some of cases before the court
argue marijuana is a health concern, which is an area regulated by each

According to news reports, Boje said she met many famous people at
McCormick's home, including actor Woody Harrelson who is helping to pay
McCormick's legal bills.

Conroy said the U.S. federal drug laws - with their minimum, mandatory
sentencing guidelines - have turned the U.S. court system into such chaos,
that many American judges have refused to hand down sentences in some drug

"We want to get some of them to give affidavits about the state of U.S. drug
laws and justice," he said, "because if the judiciary is revolting against
the government, thats a telling sign."

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