Jailbird or Lab Rat?

Authorities in northern California want to put outspoken medical-marijuana patient/activist Steve Kubby behind bars. But a medical expert in Southern California wants to put Kubby in a research facility.

Kubby, the editor of Alpine World magazine and the 1998 Libertarian Party candidate for governor, was arrested on Jan. 20 with his wife, Michelle, on suspicion of possessing 260 marijuana plants-the produce of which would amount to 3 1/2 pounds of smokable marijuana.

Kubby has smoked marijuana in his battle against malignant pheochromocytoma, a form of adrenal cancer that is generally fatal within five years of its diagnosis.

Calling his "pot bust" the "Scopes monkey trial of medical marijuana," Kubby remains defiant in his support of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 that was instituted two years ago with the passage of Proposition 215.

Now Kubby has a champion. USC Medical Center's Dr. Vincent DeQuattro first diagnosed Kubby's exceedingly rare, invariably fatal disease 15 years ago; DeQuattro figured Kubby would be dead five years later.

One of America's leading specialists on the disease, DeQuattro first learned of his former patient's "survival when I received my voter pamphlet in November 1998."

In a letter to Placer County authorities, DeQuattro wrote: "I contacted him to determine how it was that he had survived all these years. 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 said he contacted a colleague in Michigan who is an expert on the disease and on Kubby's treatment. "He told me that every patient other than Steve with Steve's condition had died during this interval of time. Steve was the only survivor," DeQuattro wrote.

DeQuattro believes that "in some amazing fashion, this medication has not only controlled the symptoms of the pheochromocytoma, but in my view, has [also] arrested its growth." But he also noted the blood-pressure problems Kubby experienced during his initial incarceration on the pot charges prove that the activist still harbors a malignant pheochromocytoma.

While in several cases the use of marijuana has been known to alleviate pain-particularly in AIDS and cancer patients-this may be the first known case of marijuana actually being the sole barrier between a patient's survival and his or her death. DeQuattro is also one of the most prominent members of the medical field to come forward and make this claim, and he has expressed a great desire to study Kubby's disease and marijuana use.

"Please consider the consequences of Steve's condition not being controlled," DeQuattro wrote. "His tumor is manufacturing large quantities of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and possibly epinephrine (adrenaline). Either compound in minute quantities could kill him instantly by causing sudden cardiac death due to arrhythmia or acute myocardial infarction, or sudden death due to cerebral hemorrhage or cerebral vascular occlusion."

If DeQuattro is right, denying Kubby marijuana would not only be a violation of Prop. 215 and his civil liberties. It would also be tantamount to manslaughter.


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