HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Yanks Seek B.C. Refuge
Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2002
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Province
Author: Keith Fraser
Bookmark: (Boje, Renee)
Bookmark: (Kubby, Steve)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Harsh U.S. Drug Laws Drive Americans Over The Border To Sechelt

The sleepy Sunshine Coast is becoming a refuge for American citizens 
fleeing marijuana-related charges in the United States.

Steve Tuck, a disabled veteran from California who takes pot for medicinal 
purposes, moved to Sechelt last summer with his wife and son after being 
charged with trafficking -- an accusation he denies.

He believes there's probably 100 other Americans "and more coming" who are 
similarly fleeing what they consider to be harsher drug laws in the U.S. 
and the prospect that they would land in jail if they stayed put.

Tuck was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1987 after suffering a 
spine injury which continues to plague him.

"We're a community here where we take care of each other, we help each 
other out," said Tuck, 36, who says he's donated 40,000 marijuana seeds to 
the Canadian government's medicinal marijuana program.

"It's like a support system. It's not for any other reasons than that. And 
also it's affordable."

A perception that the Sunshine Coast was a haven for American draft dodgers 
during the Vietnam War and therefore has a more laid back attitude has 
attracted some.

And some Americans moved to the Sunshine Coast after contacting Renee Boje, 
a native of Santa Monica, Calif., who has been living in Gibsons and 
fighting extradition on drug charges for several years. She's awaiting a 
justice minister's appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court court ruling ordering her 
out of the country.

"It was really good for me to come here and get away from it all after what 
I'd been though in America," Boje, 32, said yesterday. "It's peaceful here, 
it's beautiful. There's trees everywhere and a really supportive community 

The Sunshine Coast Compassion Club, started up by local resident Lisa 
Kirkland in October, estimates 15 of its 40 members are American citizens.

Steve Kubby, who played a key role in a winning California referendum 
supporting pot for medicinal purposes, says he packed his bags and 
travelled to Sechelt even after the main charges against him were dismissed.

"We felt that my life was very much at risk by these rogue law-enforcement 
people," he said. "At least here in Canada, there's a federal recognition 
that patients who happen to require medical cannabis to stay alive have 
real protection and human rights afforded to them by the federal government 
of Canada. And that's why I'm here."

Kubby has adrenal cancer and uses marijuana to control the pain.

Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne said he spoke to a staff sergeant in the local 
RCMP detachment, who was unaware of the influx of Americans.

Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk said it was also "news to me" that so many 
Americans were moving in but added the town has been looking into the 
Compassion Club and its legality.

"I don't even know the status of it in the town of Gibsons right now. But 
if it's simply a front for people that are seeking some sort of sanctuary 
in the country, I'd have concerns about it. That would be the same for any 
organization using a false front to find safe haven in this country. That's 
not the way you do things."

RCMP could not be reached.

An expert on marijuana policies in Canada and the United States says the 
two countries are on a collision course.

"It will be a sticking point between the two countries," said Eric 
Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, in Maryland.

Although marijuana is illegal in both countries, enforcement is a lower 
priority in Canada and criminal penalties less severe.

Canada has also instituted a nationwide medical marijuana program, 
precluding the kind of conflict now flaring between the U.S. government and 
states that have adopted their own medical marijuana laws.

At the same time, U.S. President George W. Bush has stepped up the war on 

As a result, more Americans -- medical pot users, activists, some who face 
criminal charges -- are heading to Canada.

Sterling and other experts say the migration will increase conflicts 
between the two countries, especially if people facing U.S. charges 
successfully resist attempts to extradite them from Canada.

Some suggest Canada will walk a tightrope, trying to avoid angering its 
neighbor to the south or returning Americans to face criminal charges in 
U.S. courts.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Denis Coderre said: "We won't start 
judging why you want to extradite a person, that's up to the courts. The 
government will not decide that."
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