A 29-year-old American woman is seeking refugee status in Canada, claiming she is a political victim of America's marijuana laws.
According to U.S. prosecutors, Renee Boje has admitted moving some marijuana plants and watering others in 1997 at the home of a wealthy California man who was growing a large amount of marijuana, allegedly for research into its medical uses.
Charged under U.S. federal conspiracy laws, Ms. Boje faces a minimum 10-year prison sentence if convicted, according to her lawyer, John Conroy of Abbotsford, British Columbia.
When California state police raided the home of marijuana activist and medical marijuana-user Todd McCormick at his Bel Air mansion, they found 4,000 plants, and Ms. Boje was charged along with McCormick and his followers.
When it was learned that Ms. Boje was at McCormick's home to discuss providing artwork for his upcoming book on how to grow medical marijuana, the charges against her were dropped.
But in February, when U.S. prosecutors intervened in the case, Ms. Boje was charged, along with the others, with conspiracy to manufacture and sell marijuana to Hollywood celebrities.
Just before the grand jury handed down its decision, Ms. Boje learned of the impending indictment and left for British Columbia.
Now Conroy and Ms. Boje's refugee lawyer will challenge the U.S. request for her extradition on a number of grounds, including that her prosecution is based in a politically motivated fight between the U.S. government and California over that state's Proposition 215, which legalized 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.
Another issue is degree of punishment, he explained, a common factor in deciding extradition hearings. A similar offense in Canada, he said, would likely result in nothing more than a fine.
Ms. Boje's refugee claim, he said, centers on the question of whether America's 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 Ms. Boje a victim of prosecution because of her political belief in the use of medical marijuana and her association with others of similar mind.