Kubbys prepared for marijuana arrests
OLYMPIC VALLEY – For six months drug investigators and Steve and Michele Kubby engaged in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
As investigators of the North Tahoe Task Force poured over details of the couple’s life for evidence of marijuana violations, the Kubbys, tipped off about the investigation, tied up the loose ends of their growing operation.
Launched by an anonymous letter claiming the former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate was financing his campaign by selling marijuana, the investigation climaxed Jan. 19 with the arrest of Steve and Michele Kubby on various marijuana charges.
Now, the Kubbys face charges of cultivating marijuana in their Olympic Valley home, conspiracy and possession with intent to sell. A preliminary conference is set for Feb. 22 in Tahoe Superior Court.
The case promises to become the highest-profile test to date of California’s Proposition 215, the initiative voters approved in 1996 authorizing the use of marijuana with a physician’s approval. Steve Kubby, who has adrenal cancer and was instrumental in qualifying Proposition 215 for the ballot, openly espoused the use of medicinal marijuana in the governor’s race last year. Kubby finished fourth, receiving 1 percent of the vote.
According to court documents filed by the multi-agency North Tahoe Task Force, the investigation included interviews of Kubby associates, surveillance of the couple’s home, checking their household trash and an analysis of their utility bills. But, no sooner than the anonymous letter from Marina del Rey piqued the interest of the drug task force, then the Kubbys were tipped off an investigation had begun.
“They underestimated our political contacts, our influence and our friends in the medicinal marijuana movement,” said Michele Kubby during an interview at the couple’s Olympic Valley home.
Producing evidence of the Kubbys’ marijuana garden was easy for members of the task force, which includes law enforcement officials from Placer County, the state of Nevada and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Intercepting the Kubbys’ household trash, investigators found stems, seeds, leafy marijuana residue, partially smoked marijuana cigarettes and packaging for such cultivation supplies as powerful sodium light bulbs, plant vitamins and diagrams of lighting systems. Also found in the household trash were flyers addressed to law enforcement personnel, advising them of Steve Kubby’s use of medicinal marijuana, maintenance of a garden, possession of no more than 3.5 pounds of pot and his cancer condition.
Christopher Cattran, a Placer County deputy district attorney assigned to the Lake Tahoe office, said he was not impressed by the Kubbys’ reliance on Proposition 215. “My review of 215 is that (they had) more marijuana than necessitated by a medical condition,” Cattran said Tuesday. “And there is some evidence that they furnished it to another individuals observed during the surveillance.”
Cattran said he visited the Kubbys’ house while the task force searched the residence to get a feel for the growing operation. Investigators seized 256 plants, about half of which were seedlings, in four different rooms. When officers knocked on their door on a Tuesday morning, the Kubbys were ready. As the task force searched the house, seizing plants, lights, their computer, passports and other items, the Kubbys provided letters from a physician, attorney and the president of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative who had inspected their garden.
In the wake of their arrest, the Kubbys insist they are the perfect defendants to overcome police and prosecutor opposition to Proposition 215. They deny selling any of the marijuana they harvested, and point to their modest financial circumstances: $4,800 in savings and a 10-year-old car as proof their only income is derived from Steve Kubby’s online magazine, Alpine World.
“We think this will be the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ of medical marijuana,” said Steve Kubby. “This entire clash of cultures and ideology will be on the table.”
Placer County Undersheriff Steve D’Arcy said he interprets the Proposition 215 guidelines issued by former Attorney General Dan Lungren differently. “I don’t think so,” D’Arcy said about the Kubbys becoming a high-visibility test case. “There have been other cases before where marijuana growers were selling it and used Proposition 215 as a defense.”
Cattran was less certain. “We want to see justice done,” Cattran said. “If it turns out … a jury decides that 265 plants are all right, then that’s justice. But if the jury decides it’s just too much, justice is done then, too.”
Grand Jury see case on Wednesday
Former Libertarian candidate Steve Kubby’s marijuana cultivation case will be presented Wednesday to a criminal grand jury, a Placer County prosecutor confirmed last week.
With the decision, the District Attorney’s Office will withdraw the existing indictment of marijuana cultivation and possession for sale against Kubby and his wife Michele.
The Kubbys were arrested Jan. 19 at their Olympic Valley home by the multi-agency North Tahoe Task Force, which seized 265 plants growing in hour rooms.
Kubby, 52, openly espoused the use of medical marijuana for his adrenal cancer during a 1998 campaign for governor. He was instrumental in qualifying California’s successful Proposition 215 in 1996, which allows the use of marijuana with a physician’s approval.
Christopher Cattran, a Placer County deputy district attorney, said criminal grand juries are often used by the county’s prosecutors.
“We view the grand jury as a body of independent people who will impartially review all the evidence and render a fair decision,” Cattran said. “It’s not unusual, especially in Placer County, for us to go in front of a grand jury.”
Like the preliminary hearing it replaces, a grand jury is required to determine whether enough evidence exists to refer a case to trial.
Dale Wood, a Tahoe City attorney representing the Kubbys, said the decision would deprive Kubby of a public hearing of his case.
Grand jury proceedings are secret and the transcript is usually sealed. In addition, defendants are not allowed to be represented by counsel in the proceedings, which serves as an alternative for preliminary hearings by a magistrate in court.
Wood called the grand jury hearing an “archaic” procedure, and said he has advised the Kubbys not to attend.
“We are deprived of public and open hearings,” Wood said of the grand jury process. “A first-year law student can get an indictment out of a grand jury.”
To compensate for the defendant’s lack of counsel, Cattran said the prosecutor carries an extra duty in grand jury proceedings.
“It is the responsibility of the (prosecution) to present all sides of the case to the grand jury,” Cattran said. “It is our responsibility to present all exculpatory evidence to the jurors.”
The Placer County District Attorney’s Office also sought a grand jury hearing for another recent medical marijuana case involved Rocklin dentist Michael Baldwin and his wife Georgia. Their case is pending.
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