Posted by Steve Kubby at Kubby2008.com
I’ve recently been asked a number of times — by friends, fellow Libertarians, supporters of other candidates and even my own campaign volunteers — if my personal legal situation has any bearing on my presidential candidacy.
More pointedly, I’ve been asked if the fact that I’m on probation in the state of California might not disqualify me as a candidate, if for no other reason than that it might limit my ability to travel.
I’d like to turn these questions into an opportunity: An opportunity to explain my situation, and to explain why it’s not only not a problem, but a positive factor in my campaign.
Yes, I’m on probation. Those who have followed my story have all the details. For those who haven’t, I’ll keep it brief:
After helping to write and pass Proposition 215 in 1996 and running for governor of California in 1998, I was targeted by “the authorities.” They wanted to put a clamp on the growing medical marijuana movement. They wanted a high-profile arrest, a high-profile trial, a sure conviction and a lengthy sentence. They hadn’t been able to scare the voters into keeping medical marijuana illegal, but they hoped to scare the patients who depend on it out of standing up for their newly recognized right to use it.
“The authorities” lost, and they lost big-time. I was acquitted by a jury of my peers. Proposition 215 was upheld — and federal laws conflicting with it were effectively nullified. If Proposition 215 was a “shot heard ’round the world,” my trial was the bullet hitting its target. I’m proud of the part I played in this win for freedom, although it cost me more than I could ever convey in nearly every aspect of my life.
Part of that cost was that “the authorities” kept gunning for me, on unrelated (and, in fact, bogus) charges. I obtained permission from the court to move to British Columbia, only to be betrayed by the court and designated as a fugitive, facing what amounted to a death sentence. Thanks to my many friends and supporters, I was eventually able to return and, at the cost of some damage to my health but not the loss of my life, to negotiate a deal that resulted in probation rather than additional jail time.
And that’s where I’m at right now. I have to get permission to leave the state of California. I don’t think that that will normally represent a problem when the presidential campaign requires me to travel, but there were special circumstances involved earlier this month when I was unable to attend the Nevada Libertarian Party’s convention. I recently moved from Placer County to Mendocino County — and during the time it took the paperwork to get from one county to the other, there was nobody to give me permission to travel out of the state. Placer County said I wasn’t their problem any more; Mendocino County said I wasn’t their problem yet.
I could have risked it — and had I done so, I could have gone back to jail for it. So, I telephoned my regrets to the Nevada LP, and literally “phoned in” my performance at their presidential candidate debate.
That’s fixed now … but I’d like to discuss this further.
Is a criminal record inherently a bar to seeking the presidency? I don’t think so.
What if, for some reason, I’m imprisoned again? Will that be a problem? I don’t expect it to happen, but I’m still happy to answer the question.
I’m proud of what I’ve done for freedom, and I’m in distinguished company:
Martin Luther King wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in a South African cell. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, too — and served as president of his country.
Mahatma Gandhi went to jail in South Africa as well, fighting for the rights of that country’s Indian population. Then he returned home to India and went to jail there, fighting for his nation’s independence. He never won the Nobel Prize … but he was nominated for it five times and likely would have received it had he not been assassinated.
In 1920, Eugene Debs ran for President of the United States from a prison cell in Atlanta. He polled nearly a million votes. Another Nobel Prize nominee who didn’t win.
No, I’m not trying to tell you that I’m the next Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Eugene Debs — but their lives are proof positive that it’s possible to be politically effective after, or even during, imprisonment for one’s political activities.
I don’t wear my experiences with the criminal justice system (and let me emphasize that America’s justice system is, indeed, criminal these days) as a badge of shame. I wear them as a badge of honor. I’d do it all again, and if the situation warrants, I WILL do it all again.
In seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, I offer those experiences and that commitment not with excuses, but AS CREDENTIALS. Those experiences prove that I’m willing to stand up and be counted. They prove that I’m willing to fight for my rights and the rights of my fellow Americans, no matter the cost. And now, I’m asking for the opportunity to do so as your candidate for President of the United States.