"fleeing north"

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by NuBBiN, Jul 23, 2002.

  1. It's a different war, but it's having the same old consequences. In the
    1960s, Americans fled to Canada to avoid fighting in Vietnam. Four decades
    later, American medical marijuana patients are crossing the border again,
    claiming they're political refugees from the U.S. government's war on drugs.
    "I'm a member of a class of society they're trying to oppress-or wipe out
    completely," says Renee Boje, from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Boje, 32, is probably the most famous American fugitive in Canada: the U.S.
    is currently trying to extradite her to face charges for conspiracy to
    cultivate hundreds of cannabis plants at the Los Angeles home of Todd
    McCormick, a cancer patient and medical marijuana activist.

    If convicted, Boje faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years-a penalty
    so severe that she's become the poster child for the increasing numbers of
    U.S. citizens heading north to take advantage of Canada's liberal pot laws.
    "There are hundreds of Americans here," she says, "because they're being
    persecuted by their own government."

    Many of the refugees are quietly growing and using their own weed-the
    Vancouver-based B.C. Compassion Club, one of a dozen operating across
    British Columbia, alone estimates that over 100 of its 2,000 clients are
    Americans. But others, like Boje, haven't kept such a low profile. Over the
    past couple of months, several prominent U.S. activists have fled to British
    Columbia as well-including Steve Kubby, 56, the Libertarian Party's 1998
    candidate for governor of California, and Ken Hayes, 34, who operated the
    6th Street Harm Reduction Center in San Francisco.

    Kubby, who has adrenal cancer, faces a 120-day jail term for drug possession
    in California, which he says would kill him; in February, even though he was
    already in Canada, Hayes was charged with conspiracy to grow more than 1,000
    plants and could be sentenced to at least 10 years. Both have formally
    claimed refugee status under United Nations conventions, arguing that they
    have a "well-founded fear of persecution" in the United States. Canadian
    immigration officials have decided there's enough substance to the claims
    that Kubby, Hayes, and their families may remain in the country until a
    final hearing a year from now.

    "U.S. officials have violated the law and intentionally targeted the leaders
    of the medical marijuana movement by using conspiracy charges," says Kubby,
    from his home on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast-just before he's due to read the
    daily news on pot-tv.net, an internet TV channel. "I'm being threatened with
    a death sentence. How can anyone justify that and say it's not an attempt to
    persecute me?"

    Understandably, comments like this have already won the refugees plenty of
    attention from Canadian news media -- and American officials as well.
    "Providing sanctuary to some of these people who see Canada as an easy place
    to escape the long leash of U.S. law enforcement is dangerous," said Robert
    Maginnis, a White House drug policy advisor, in a recent interview on
    Canada's Global TV network. "I would hope that the Canadian government would
    see fit to send them back to the U.S. so they can face charges, because we
    have, just like you do, a sovereign right over our citizens to enforce the
    laws of our land."

    The vast difference between how medical marijuana laws are applied in Canada
    and the U.S., however, partly explains the exodus. Although California
    voters passed Proposition 215, creating a Compassionate Use Act, in 1996,
    over the past two years the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has used federal
    law to raid and prosecute medical marijuana clubs across the state. In May
    last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the DEA's actions, ruling that
    "marijuana has no medical benefits", and this June the U.S. government
    obtained an injunction shutting down the few remaining California clubs for

    The Canadian federal government, on the other hand, has granted permits to
    possess or grow marijuana to more than 800 Canadians who suffer from AIDS,
    cancer or multiple sclerosis. And Canadian courts, which aren't bound by
    mandatory minimums, are generally lenient on those who don't have permits:
    last month the B.C. Supreme Court stayed cultivation charges against a
    Vancouver man caught with 96 plants because he has AIDS and hepatitis; a few
    days later the same court gave an "absolute discharge" (i.e. no jail, fine,
    or criminal record) to the director of a compassion club who pleaded guilty
    to possession of five pounds of marijuana.

    Alex Stojicevic, the Vancouver lawyer representing Hayes, Kubby and several
    other American refugee claimants, says it's "nothing new" for U.S. citizens
    to flee to Canada to avoid drug charges-what's new is the U.S. crackdown on
    medical marijuana that accelerated after the Bush administration took
    office. His clients' argument, he says, is that they're being persecuted for
    holding a political opinion shared by a majority of California voters, but
    not by the feds. "Since Mr. Ashcroft became attorney-general and Mr. Bush
    the president, the view is that things are going to get worse," says
    Stojicevic. That's what's fueling this."

    Stojicevic admits it's unlikely many of his clients will ultimately win
    refugee status, because Canadian courts have consistently held that "the
    United States is still a country where the rule of law applies, and the real
    forum for complaining about these things is there, not here." However, a few
    Americans might be allowed to stay for compassionate reasons--earlier this
    year, Renee Boje married a Canadian, and they now have a four-month-old son.
    Stojicevic also notes that Boje's case is unique: while the other Americans
    will simply be ordered to leave Canada if their claims of persecution fail,
    the final decision to extradite Boje is up to Canada's minister of justice,
    who may consider (according to Canadian law) how "unjust and oppressive" it
    would be to send a young mother to 10 years in prison for watering some

    Unfortunately, the U.S. activists have made a difficult situation even
    harder for themselves: in April, after one of them showed reporters a grow
    operation he'd started, neighbors complained and the Mounties arrested
    Kubby, Hayes and several others. (Hayes also says he was visited by a DEA
    agent based in Vancouver, who tried to intimidate him into returning
    "voluntarily" to the U.S.) They were released only after Marc Emery, the
    leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party and the owner of pot-tv.net and a giant
    marijuana seed bank, put up $5,000 bail. If convicted of cultivation and
    possession charges, each of the Americans could be ordered to leave Canada
    before the final hearings of their refugee claims.

    The refugees are unrepentant. "I don't want to go back to the United
    States," says Ken Hayes. "The people who are still there fighting are doing
    a noble thing ... but it's inevitable that wherever there's liberty, that's
    where people will seek to be."

    Author: Ross Crockford, AlterNet
    Published: July 11, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Independent Media Institute
    Contact: info@alternet.org
    Website: http://www.alternet.org/
    DL: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=13578
  2. NuBBin,

    I remember the 1960's and how men were fleeing across the border to escape a mandatory draft that would send them to serve their country in Viet Nam. If my name had been called, I too would have considered this drastic move. But Mr. Nixon ended the draft in 1973, and I thank him for that.

    But before VietNam, Canada had been a land of refuge for runaway slaves. I don't know if their life was any better, but at least they were free.

    Maybe this different kind of war is happening because it needs to happen. And it needs to happen now because the world is too much with us. America is building up securities and protections unheard of since the days of "the Red Scare!" (which I remember too).

    The very fact that they had a commercial on the Super Bowl to equate marijuana with hard drugs with supporting terrorists means that this giant build up will also seek out marijuana users, as well as terrorists. "any one who is not with us, is with the terrorists," President Bush was heard to say.

    And once they arrest us, what do they do? kill us? use us for medical experiments?
    throw us in jail 10 years stamp 10 years stamp 10 years ... ?

    You say they want to discard Boje for ten years in a cell, and extradite those people from Canada back to the United States in order to be punished for growing something to smoke to relax. If shove comes to punch, will the US go to war over it?

    In a way it seems we're like the earliest Christians who were persecuted just for doing something different.

Share This Page