HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Cannabis Refugees Cross Border
Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jul 2002
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Duncan Campbell, in Los Angeles
Cited: Renee Boje
Todd McCormick
Steve Kubby
Compassion Club
Bookmarks: (Cannabis - Medicinal) (Boje, Renee) (Kubby, Steve) (McCormick, Todd)


'Persecuted' Medicinal Marijuana Users Seek Asylum In Canada

A group of Americans are seeking political asylum in Canada, claiming
they face persecution by their own government because of their use of
medicinal marijuana.

Their cases are being considered by the Canadian legal authorities,
who are assessing whether they face "genuine fear of persecution" if
they are sent back.

Hundreds of Americans have crossed the border into Canada in recent
months following clampdowns ordered by the attorney general, John
Ashcroft, on medicinal marijuana clubs that exist in states where
voters have passed measures approving them.

They provide marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, Aids,
multiple sclerosis and glaucoma and whose doctors have suggested the
use of the drug.

This week, the California supreme court ruled that Californians who
grow or use marijuana for personal medicinal needs are protected from
prosecution in state courts if they have approval. But the federal
government is fiercely opposed to this and is continuing its
prosecutions in federal courts.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently raided medicinal
marijuana clubs in LA and San Francisco, a process upheld by the US
Supreme court.

Some who have crossed the border are wanted on marijuana charges in
the United States and the US authorities are pressuring Canadian law
enforcement agencies to send them back. The moves come as Canada, like
the UK, is liberalising its laws on cannabis.

One of the best known American fugitives in Canada is Renee Boje, whom
the US wishes to extradite to stand trial for cultivating cannabis
plants at the home of Todd McCormick, a cancer patient and medicinal
marijuana activist in LA. She had watered the plants on his behalf.

"I'm a member of a class of society they're trying to oppress or wipe
out completely," Renee Boje told the online news network, AlterNet
from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia.

If convicted, she faces a minimum sentence of ten years. The length of
that sentence is part of her plea that she faces unjust persecution if
she were to return home. "There are hundreds of Americans here because
they are being persecuted by their own government."

Another American, Steve Kubby, the Libertarian Party's 1998 candidate
for governor of California, and Ken Hayes, who operated the 6th Street
Harm Reduction Centre in San Francisco, have also entered Canada.

Kubby, who has adrenal cancer, faces a 120-day jail term for drug
possession. Additional charges, filed since he arrived in Canada, of
conspiring to grow more than 1,000 plants, mean that he could face a
sentence of ten years or more.

Both men have now formally claimed refugee status under the UN refugee
convention on the grounds that they have a "well-founded fear of
persecution" in the US. Canadian immigration officials have allowed
them to stay while their status is determined in court.

"US officials have violated the law and intentionally targeted the
leaders of the medical marijuana movement by using conspiracy
charges," said Kubby. "I'm being threatened with a death sentence. How
can anyone justify that and say it's not an attempt to persecute me?"

Their claims have been attacked by the White House drugs policy
adviser Robert Maginnis who said on Canadian TV: "Providing sanctuary
to some of these people who see Canada as an easy place to escape the
long leash of US law enforcement is dangerous ... I would hope that
the Canadian government would see fit to send them back to the US so
they can face charges."

The Canadian federal government has granted permits to possess or grow
marijuana to more than 800 Canadians who suffer from Aids, cancer or
multiple sclerosis.

Many of the American refugees are now growing their own marijuana
through such medicinal marijuana clubs as the Vancouver-based
Compassion Club, which estimates that over 100 of its 2,000 clients
are Americans.

Canada became a refuge in the sixties and seventies for people who did
not want to fight in the Vietnam war, a journey memorialised in the
song, My Uncle, by the Flying Burrito Brothers, who sang of "heading
for the nearest foreign border/ Vancouver may be just my kind of town/
'Cos they don't need the kind of law and order/ That tends to keep a
good man underground."

The "war on drugs" is now propelling others towards that same foreign
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