Skip to comments.The Crimes of Pot Justice - When marijuana arrests might be death sentences
Posted on 02/09/2006 10:22:20 PM PST by neverdem
Reason Foundation free minds and free markets
February 6, 2006
Last week a man was shivering and vomiting in a cold cell in Auburn, California, at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Placer County, his urine bloody, the medicine he needs denied him.
His name is Steve Kubby. He was the Libertarian Party's 1998 gubernatorial candidate, and a major player in the crafting and passing of California's Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized medical marijuana in the state.
Kubby did not enjoy the protection of the law he helped pass. Prompted by an anonymous tip, police in California's Placer County began surveilling Kubby's home near Lake Tahoe in 1998, including digging through his garbage. Eventually on January 19, 1999, 12 armed officers raided his home and arrested him and his wife, claiming to have found 265 pot plants. (More than half, Kubby insists, were unsexed seedlings, and California law does not have a specific numerical limit on personal use marijuana growth for medical marijuana patients.) The warrant was obtained partially on the basis of claims that a journalist who had been seen visiting the Kubbys' home was in fact a known Jamaican drug smuggler, according to a DEA report later found not to exist; Kubby is certain his prominence in the pro-marijuana movement made him a target.
Kubby is struggling with a rare and usually fatal form of adrenal cancer, pheochromocytoma, which he has suffered from since the late 1960s. A doctor who helped treat him for the condition in the 1970s, Vincent DeQuattro of the University of Southern California, was amazed, upon seeing Kubby's name in California's voter guide during his gubernatorial race, to discover that his old patient was still alive. As High Times reported:
"In some amazing fashion," DeQuattro subsequently advised the judge in Kubby's case, "this medication has not only controlled the symptoms of pheochromocytoma, but in my view, has arrested growth" of the cancer. "Every other patient than Steve, with Steve's condition, has died in the interval of time [that Kubby has had the disease.] Steve was the only survivor."
Kubby insists the only treatment he's taken in a long while for the cancer—whose effects include sudden rushes of adrenalin and noradrenaline, resulting in high blood pressure spikes, headaches, and panic attacks—is marijuana; that it, and only it, had kept him alive this long; and that without it, as he now is in Placer County lockdown, he'll likely die.
Is he right? Even with the grim reports of his vomiting, chills, and bloody urine this past week in jail, it's hard to be sure. He's merely one anecdote, and concerted research into such questions of marijuana's medical efficacy are hamstrung by restrictive federal regulations and supply constraints. But right now his Placer County jailers are conducting a very dangerous experiment to test Kubby's theory. A Canadian doctor, Dr. Joseph M. Connors, chair of the Lymphoma Tumor Group at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, has testified that without his pot, Kubby is at high risk of suffering potentially fatal heart attacks, seizures, or strokes from his cancer's effects.
Kubby was acquitted of the pot charges arising from the raid, but convicted in 2001 for some peyote buttons and a psychedelic mushroom the cops also found. Before serving his term, he and his family left for Canada, where they've spent the past five years. He, his wife Michele, and his two daughters were finally deported back to the U.S. last week. They were met at the San Francisco airport by a gang of officers, Kubby was handcuffed and taken away, avoiding the press and well-wishers awaiting him in the airport, and ended up in Placer County jail.
Kubby has become something of a cause célèbre because of his intimate connections with the libertarian and medical marijuana communities. But he's not the only one suffering in prison because of lack of marijuana. In a similar situation—ill, in prison, denied marijuana that helps them cope or survive their illness—are Joe Fortt (in jail in Fresno, his T-cell count plummeting, he'd been using pot to cope with AIDS while free), Robert Schmidt (currently in Leavenworth, a prison under full "lockdown," denied both medicine and visitors), and many others. Prisons in California may, at their discretion, but are not required under the law, provide inmates with their medical marijuana-and generally don't.
As of this writing, Kubby is being permitted the use of marinol, a pharmaceutical synthetic THC, though not the whole marijuana plant. His blood pressure has stabilized and the blood has left his urine. (When he refused to take standard blood pressure medicine, inappropriate for the spiked variety of high blood pressure his adrenal problems caused, they made him sign a waiver absolving his jailers of all responsibility for what might happen to him.) His pre-trial hearing on a charge of failure to appear for probation is scheduled for February 15.
The Kubby case presents many unresolved controversies; is it really the marijuana that has kept his adrenal cancer from killing him? Did his status as a felony fugitive arise from judicial misconduct? (His conviction was originally for a misdemeanor, raised to a felony level by a judge during his appeals process, which is what made his lack of appearance at a hearing because he was in Canada a crime. Kubby has filed a complaint with California's Commission on Judicial Performance, alleging the judge, who had been earlier recused from his case, was acting illegally.)
Whatever the final resolution of those questions, in Auburn, California, a man is in jail ultimately for growing a plant he believes helps him, suffering from cancer, his vitals erratic, deprived of medication that makes his life bearable. He has harmed no one, and is being harmed for it.
Brian Doherty is a senior editor of Reason and author of This Is Burning Man, (Little, Brown), whose paperback edition will be released by BenBella Books in summer 2005.
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Copyright © 2005
Donno -- It was probably the Peyote...
Either way, it was the culture of drugs that put him in prison. I wonder what other banned drugs they found in his house..
Not smoking dope isn't making this guy vomit blood or whatever claim they are making.
As far as the PC12 cells. PC12 is a common cell line used in labs. The same studies are and can be done in other cells and affect on microtubules is not specific to PC12.
I guess peyote or mushrooms will cure his "cancer" too.
It's interesting how the 60's drug sub-culture/new left tries to pass itself off over the years. Now they're going for the Reasoned libertarian scam.
You don't think they know how to diagnose a pheochromocytoma? He should have died quite a while ago.
"Kubby was acquitted of the pot charges arising from the raid, but convicted in 2001 for some peyote buttons and a psychedelic mushroom the cops also found."
So what is the peyote and mushrooms for? Legal dementia?
A logical and rational layperson could posit that a lifetime of multi-drug use is the root cause of his many physical ailmnents.
A pot-promoting doctor claimed that Kubby would die within four days of not smoking marijuana.
Kubby was also caught with hypodermic syringes, hundreds of pot plants and evidence of payments from "clinics" that were reselling pot for hundreds of dollars an ounce.
And how did he survive this fatal diagnosis, just spontaneous remission I suppose, or if there was Divine intervention, why would this evil doper receive it?
No, it was actually a hung jury and a mistrial.
Thanks for the link. A pathologist should have confirmed the diagnosis after surgery, and MRI or CT imaging studies should document recurrence of the malignancy.
You are taking at face value that there ever was a fatal diagnosis.
I don't believe it.
But let's say it's so. There are huge numbers of people who smoke pot who get cancer. They die like everyone else. If pot killed cancer Bob Marley'd be alive today.
Marijuana or components in marijuana very well may have legitimate medical use. But this whole medical marijuan thing is a big ruse. It has been cooked up by the same old counter culture that advocated rug use in the 60's and 70's. It's their latest tact to try and make drugs more readily available. And the main stream media plays along with them just like they do with most liberal endeavors.
At this point, I'm taking the pertinent statement in Mojave's link in comment 9 at face value, for which I thanked him/her, and which I italicized in comment 13 as the pertinent medical history. If there were no medical errors, he should have been dead decades ago with that diagnosis.
I fully understand the arguments in both sides of the WOD, which makes as much sense as alcohol prohibition. My interest is understanding medicine. The WOD has not been helpful in that respect to understanding the endocannabinoid system or optimum medical therapy.
I confess that I glanced over that remark. Cancer isn't a real diagnosis in that the term describes over 200 specific diagnoses which vary greatly in numerous medical criteria. It's obvious that your perspective is political. If a political story involves medicine, I can't ignore medical facts.
I do as well. That post came after my comment where I stated don't believe it. I fugured he was never diagnosed. It turns out he got conventional treatment.
The claim of dope-smoking curing his cancer is a big lie.
Do you actually take this Kubby seriously?
From the source that contended Kubby would be dead in four days without smoking pot.
Posted by CN Staff on December 08, 2003
By The Canadian Press
Kubby, who once made an unsuccessful run for governor of California, was granted permission by Health Canada to grow and smoke pot for medical reasons in August 2002.
Apparently Health Canada concurred with the diagnosis.
A cancer specialist told the hearing that Kubby, who suffers from adrenal cancer, would die within four days of not smoking marijuana.
The prognosis for any individual's diagnosis is notoriously unreliable. Mortality estimates are derived from averages of large numbers. You get statements like: "Five year survival are X percent." Pheochromocytomas are relatively rare. The active ingredients in marijuana have a long half-life because they are fat soluble.
Dr. Joseph Connors of the B.C. Cancer Agency said in April that Kubby has a large malignant tumour resulting from the cancer and that pot helps lower the excessive level of a chemical called catecholamine in his blood.
That implies that an MRI or CT had been performed at the time.
Kubby was diagnosed with cancer in 1968 and given only a few years to live. He had surgery to remove an aggressive tumour and also received chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
I don't know what was done at the time. The current standard of care would be for the surgeon to have removed the mass with a pathologist examining "frozen sections" of it almost simultaneously to assure the surgeon that all of the tumor was removed. It's not a guarantee, hence the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation, but the examination of the "frozen sections" and other histological methods by the pathologist should have confirmed the diagnosis.
Either he has the diagnosis, is a medical anomoly and should have died, or there is either fraud or gross incompetence because whether he has a recurrent pheochromocytoma is easily confirmed or not..
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