Steven Wynn Kubby, co-author of California’s watershed medical marijuana law and the Libertarian Party’s 1998 gubernatorial candidate, is a free man – at least for now.
Steve and Michele Kubby
The outspoken “reefer refugee” was quietly released March 6 from the Placer County Jail, having served 40 days of a four-month sentence handed down in 2001 for felony possession of a couple of peyote buttons and a shriveled psychedelic mushroom stem seized during a raid by sheriff deputies on his home near Lake Tahoe in January 1999. Kubby’s medi-pot garden of marijuana plants in various stages of growth – the reason for the bust – was also confiscated, but county prosecutors failed to convince the jury that Kubby was growing these for sale to compassion clubs rather than for his legal personal use.
Kubby, 59, who has used marijuana for three decades to treat a fatal and incurable form of adrenal cancer, was incarcerated Jan. 27, following his arrest the evening before at San Francisco International Airport when his flight arrived from Vancouver, B.C.
But Kubby’s newly granted freedom could be brief. He’s due in court today when prosecutors will announce whether they want him to face charges of violating his probation by moving to Canada five years ago. He could receive anything from a dismissal of charges to three years in state prison. Placer County District Attorney Chris Cattron, who prosecuted Kubby on the marijuana selling and other drug charges six years ago, is still in charge of the case.
“My lawyer will argue it was medical necessity,” Kubby told WorldNetDaily. “I had the court’s permission to go to Canada, and once I was in Canada I was abandoned by the public defender, so I made the only choice I could – and that was to protect my health and stay.”
Kubby – with his wife, Michele, and the couple’s two young daughters, ages 6 and 9 – has lived in British Columbia since May 2001 to avoid incarceration, a punishment doctors warned could prove fatal since he would not have access to marijuana. Four months is not a long sentence, but there’s not a jail in the country that allows inmates, even those stricken with terminal cancer, to use cannabis in any form.
He was afraid – and doctors who examined him concurred – that without marijuana the cancer he’d been able to keep in remission for over 20 years might reassert itself and quickly spread to his heart, brain and other vital organs.
“I believed my life was on the line,” he said.
Kubby repeatedly sought permission to remain in Canada as a political refugee on the grounds that he was targeted for prosecution by Placer County authorities in 1998, in part because of his role in the passage of the Compassionate Use Act by voters two years earlier, which legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in California.
The Kubby family
Since medical marijuana is legal in Canada (as it technically is in California), the government there granted Kubby a medi-pot exemption but turned down his pleas for refugee status. A Canadian judge rejected his final appeal in January and ordered him to leave the country on his own or be forcibly deported. The Kubbys took the first option.
The early release from jail came on the heels of a contrary ruling issued by a court just three days before.
At a March 3 hearing, Placer County Superior Court Judge John Cosgrove summarily rejected a motion by Kubby’s attorney, J. David Nick, to reconsider the sentence and ruled that he was to complete the 120-day stint behind bars.
“The defendant has been sentenced. … I don’t see that Mr. Kubby is eligible for another sentencing,” Cosgrove said. “Request denied.”
Cosgrove also refused to modify the terms of Kubby’s probation or allow alternatives to jail, such as house arrest.
Officials say the release was prompted by good behavior on Kubby’s part (they describe him as a “model prisoner”) and overcrowding at the county jail.
Placer County Undersheriff Steve D’Arcy said Kubby was one of 47 inmates released from the jail since Feb. 28 under a federal court order that prohibits overcrowding, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“We have roughly 600 beds for prisoners and it is a constant balancing act of bringing in fresh arrests and releasing people who have followed all the jail rules and gotten credit for good behavior and for time served,” said D’Arcy.
The first few days in custody were stressful, and Kubby’s blood pressure soared dangerously high. Friends and supporters feared he’d die unless he received cannabis in some form, either inhaled or ingested. He was allowed to take Marinol – a legal, synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, one of the most active ingredient in marijuana.
Kubby said he found that the Marinol helped curb the potentially lethal surges in blood pressure, but it also caused indigestion, and he has not tolerated it well. Plus the price is astronomical – $23 a pill, and he needs three or four a day. The cost is being paid by donations.
Nick told WorldNetDaily that his client’s health deteriorated during his six weeks in custody, as reported in Internet postings. He lost 25 pounds and “appeared emaciated” at the March 3 hearing.
A ‘medical miracle’
Kubby suffers from locally recurrent and metastatic pheochromocytoma, a cancer of the inner core of the adrenal gland that stimulates overproduction of a group of hormones called catecholemines, which include epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. The constant overproduction causes blood pressure to soar, resulting in blinding headaches, strokes and cardiac arrest. It’s a very rare cancer but deadly. And there is no cure. Patients diagnosed with it can expect to live at most 10 years.
In 1976, doctors told Kubby he had six months to live. Twenty-two years later, he was very much alive, athletic, politically active and running for the governorship of California.
“I should be dead. That’s what doctors recently told me after completing extensive medical tests [in 1998] at the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine,” Kubby declared in a piece he wrote for WorldNetDaily in 1999. “According to Dr. Vincent DeQuattro, a USC professor and world authority on adrenal cancer, my blood shows lethal levels of adrenaline.
“That’s not really surprising, since everyone who has ever had my disease has died within a few years. Except for me. Thanks to medical marijuana, I’m now entering my 23rd year of survival, something DeQuattro considers a ‘medical miracle.’
“Dr. DeQuattro even wrote a letter advising [the court] that I could suffer a heart attack or stroke if deprived of marijuana and that no other form of therapy is available.”
In 2006, that 23-year benchmark is 30 years.
In a strange quirk of fate, DeQuattro had treated Kubby at L.A. County-USC Medical Center during the early 1980s. Before his tragic death in 2001, he was head of the medical center’s Hypertension Diagnostic Laboratory. Astonished to see his former patient’s name in the California voter’s pamphlet for the November 1998 election, he contacted him to find out how he’d managed to survive.
“He told me that he was treating himself with the advice of his physicians in northern California with marijuana, and has been taking no other medical therapy for several years,” DeQuattro declared in his 1999 letter to the Placer County Superior Court.
Kubby was subjected to a battery of tests that revealed lethal levels of adrenal hormones – 10 to 20 times normal – in his system. But for reasons that neither DeQuattro nor the other specialists could explain, cannabis appeared to be curbing the effects of the cancer and keeping it in remission.
As DeQuattro put it: “In some amazing fashion, this medication has not only controlled the symptoms of the pheochromocytoma, but in my view has arrested its growth. I strongly endorse that you consider supplying Steve with sufficient supplies of his specific marijuana product in order to control his life threatening disease. …
“Faith healers 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. Marijuana contains many substances which can neutralize the effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine on the heart and vascular tissue.”
DeQuattro monitored Kubby’s condition, treating the cancer with drugs and other conventional treatments. In the early 1980s, he referred him to Dr. James Sisson at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor for experimental radiation therapy and to the Mayo Clinic, at which time he lost touch with him and assumed he’d died.
‘You’ve got six months to live’
Kubby was first diagnosed with pheochromocytoma in 1969, and doctors removed the tumor and his right adrenal gland at that time. That is the standard treatment for pheochromocytomas – most of which are benign. Only about 10 percent are malignant and deadly. His was one of them.
According to Michele Kubby, his health seemed normal for six years. Then in 1975 a blood pressure test revealed something was very wrong. Two operations followed – in 1975 and 1976. The tumor had returned and his cancer had metastasized to his liver and other organs.
“He was 28 years old, and there wasn’t much they could do. So they removed a lot of the stuff and sewed him up and said, ‘Well, you have six months to live,’” she told WND.
Kubby and his doctors fought the disease with all the weapons available in the arsenal of modern medicine.
“He did the chemotherapy, he did the radiation, and he was living on alpha and beta blockers,” Michele said. “They had to give him such high amounts of blood pressure medication that he’d lie in bed completely comatose all day long, in constant pain, nauseous – and just ready to die.”
But he explored other forms of therapy, eventually giving up on conventional methods of dealing with the disease and developing a regimen based on a restricted diet and inhalation of cannabis. So far it’s worked.
The only survivor
When DeQuattro re-established contact in 1998 he contacted Sisson as well, who told him that every patient other than Kubby with the same condition had died: “Steve was the only survivor.”
Four years later, cancer specialist Joseph Connors, chair of the Lymphoma Tumor Group at the prestigious BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, examined Kubby for the Canadian government and reached essentially the same conclusions as DeQuattro.
“When locally recurrent or metastatic pheochromocytoma cannot be effectively treated with surgical removal or radio-MIBG, as is true in this case, it is incurable,” Connors said in a recent letter to Michele Kubby summarizing his assessment and recommendations.
“Empiric attempts to control the symptoms with marijuana proved successful, making this the current treatment of choice for his disease. For this reason, I have recommended continued medicinal use of inhaled marijuana for control of his potentially life-threatening catecholamine-related symptoms.”
As for Kubby’s battle with Placer County law enforcement, Connors commented to WorldNetDaily: “I can’t see what useful purpose is being served in forcing him not to use marijuana. It is apparently doing him some substantial good, and I don’t see why he can’t simply be permitted access to it while he proceeds through whatever other matters the courts wish to pursue. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Connors, who was Kubby’s physician in cancer-related matters, described his patient as being a “physically active man in excellent health – but he harbors this tumor that makes [catecholamines] that put his life in jeopardy.”
“If he’s in trouble with the law, that’s between him and the law, and I think they should follow through and do whatever they think they need to do,” he added. “But I don’t see what purpose is being served by putting his health and life in jeopardy during that time by forcefully depriving him of access to something that – with his years of experience using it – is apparently keeping him healthy.”
Documents and information regarding the Kubby case are posted at www.kubby.com.
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