Wanted American Flees To Canada

Wanted American Flees To Canada
Posted by FoM on September 26, 1999 at 20:59:56 PT
By Barry Brown, Special to
Source: ABC NEWS
T O R O N T O, Sept. 26 — Renee Boje helped grow marijuana in California but says it was legal. Now she’s on the lam, pursued by U.S. prosecutors.   The artist, a painter, has fled to Canada, where she’s seeking refugee status — and trying to put the U.S. legal system on trial. (See story, below.)
   Boje got entangled with the law while staying at the mansion of Todd McCormick, a California millionaire, marijuana activist and bone-marrow cancer patient who had some 4,000 marijuana plants he said were being cultivated for medicinal purposes. Charges Dropped, Then Reinstated California officers arrested Boje along with McCormick and a host of his followers in 1997 after raiding McCormick’s home.   A few months later Boje, who claimed she was at McCormick’s home principally to discuss providing artwork for his planned book on the medical uses of marijuana, learned that charges against her had been dropped.   But then in May 1998, after organizing fund-raising for McCormick, Boje learned the charges against her were about to be reinstated.   Her U.S. lawyer, she said, told her: “If you were my daughter, I’d tell you to leave the country right now. There’s a 99 percent chance the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] will reinstate your charges, and I don’t think I can save you [from a long prison term].”   “A few days later, I gave all my things away and came to Canada,” she said.   McCormick stayed in the U.S. to face charges, and is currently out on bail paid by movie star Woody Harrelson. An Acknowledgement U.S. prosecutors say Boje has admitted moving some marijuana plants and watering others at the home of McCormick, who claims he was growing the marijuana for research into its medical uses.   Bose says she did not actively tend the plants and further claims McCormick never intended any commercial use for the marijuana beyond “dreams of opening a compassionate [marijuana] club” to distribute medical marijuana to those in need.   A source in the U.S. attorney’s office familiar with the case says documents were found at McCormick’s residence indicating plans to sell his marijuana at a profit, and that Boje is accused of operating as “one of McCormick’s employees in a large, commercial-grow operation.”   Now 29, Boje faces from 10 years to life in prison under U.S. conspiracy laws on charges of trafficking in marijuana.   She claims she is a victim of America’s marijuana wars. With two Canadian lawyers, she is fighting a U.S. extradition request while making the bid to gain refugee status. California vs. the Feds One of the lawyers, John Conroy of British Colombia, says her prosecution is a politically motivated fight between the U.S. federal government and California over the state’s Proposition 215, which legalizes marijuana for medical use.   “I will try to convince the court … that this is a political issue and she should not be extradited for a political offense,” Conroy said.   The political nature of her prosecution, he added, is evident in the way U.S. prosecutors are doing everything they can to keep the California law out of the case.   Medical marijuana is not legal under U.S. federal law, which considers the plant a schedule 1 substance, like heroin, with no medical benefits. Further, under U.S. law, the principle of supremacy says when there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law wins.   But Conroy is also arguing against Boje’s extradition because of the vast difference in penalties for her alleged crime. A similar, first-time offense in Canada, Conroy said, would likely result in nothing more than a fine and probation. He wants to call some U.S. judges to the testify on their unwillingness to hand down mandatory sentences for drug offenses. A Tall Order When she was seized earlier this year in Canada, Boje had moved into a house that had a medical marijuana garden growing in it for the Vancouver Compassion Club.   “On Feb. 15, ’99, the house was raided by the RCMP (Canadian federal police),” she says. “At that time, they found out about my reinstated charges in the U.S. and I was immediately arrested and turned over to immigration in Vancouver where I demanded to apply for refugee status right away.”   Adding to the complications in her case are Canada’s recent legalization of marijuana for controlled medical use and a newer Canadian law making it harder to gain refugee status for people whose alleged crimes could entail a 10-year prison term.   Boje’s immigration lawyer, Alex Stojicevich, admits that convincing a Canadian refugee panel of the validity of her claim is a “tall order.”   If she loses the first round — a decision could come this fall — she plans an appeal. ‘They Molested Me in Prison’ John Conroy, Boje’s attorney, plans to put the entire U.S. justice system on trial in Canada by citing Amnesty International and U.N. reports on the abuse of women in U.S. prisons.   During Boje’s three days in federal prison after she was arrested, she says, “I wasn’t given any food. I was strip-searched 15 times. Two of those times were in the presence of male prison guards who made lewd and threatening remarks toward me through my entire stay there.”   There are now 1.8 million prisoners in the United States, Conroy says, “and 70 percent of them are there because of the war on drugs.”   Conroy will also question whether the United States’ marijuana penalties violate international law by severely punishing people for a behavior that causes no harm to others or society as a whole. And if so, whether that makes Boje a victim of prosecution because of her political belief in the use of medical marijuana and her association with others of similar mind.  S U M M A R YRenee Boje fled to Canada after being arrested on marijuana charges. Now, she says her prosecution is political and is asking for refugee status. Boje's Web Site ©1999 ABC News Internet Ventures.   A Benefit Concert to Fight for Freedom - 9/18/99 
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