Boston Globe Tells Peter McWilliams Story Without Compromising

Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999
Subject: Boston Globe Tells Peter McWilliams Story Without Compromising

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #133 October 26, 1999

Boston Globe Tells Peter McWilliams Story Without Compromising



Often when the mainstream press covers the issue of medical marijuana,
reporters seem to feel obligated to present the prohibitionist
contention that medical marijuana is a “hoax.” The Boston Globe
shattered that mold this week with a remarkable story (below) about
Peter McWilliams, the heroic author and activist who is being denied
the medical marijuana that helped him cope with AIDS and cancer. (To
learn more about Peter and his trial visit his websites and

Peter hasn’t been allowed to use the medicine he swears by for more
than a year, and the author of the Globe story shows the harsh
consequences. No where in the story does anyone question whether
marijuana is really medicine; it is a given. The spokesman for the
U.S. attorneys office prosecuting Peter argues callously that Peter’s
life is less important that federal laws. “It doesn’t matter if they
say, `I’m doing this to save my life.’ It’s illegal to manufacture or
cultivate marijuana under federal law,” according to the spokesman.

Please write a letter to the Boston Globe congratulating the paper on
this excellent piece, and also to protest the cruelty and injustice
that Peter is suffering.


Just DO it!


Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the MAPTalk
list if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with
so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.



Source: Boston Globe (MA)

Pubdate: Sat, 23 Oct 1999
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
Page: Front Page
Address: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378
Author: Lynda Gorov, Globe Staff
Cited: Peter McWilliams:


By now, vomiting is second nature to Peter McWilliams. He has no
shame about it. Sometimes he even sees the humor in it.

McWilliams, 50, still laughs about the time he leaned over a trash can
at a political convention, lost his lunch in front of strangers, then
casually wiped his mouth with a cocktail napkin before continuing the
conversation. The other day, at his home high in the Hollywood Hills,
he simply shrugged when he returned from retching in the bathroom.

”You get used to vomiting,” he said. ”You get used to anything, I
suppose. But it’s insane that anyone has to go through this.”

McWilliams, who has AIDS and cancer that is in remission, said he and
his doctor know the solution to his suffering: medical marijuana. He
said he knows from experience that it helps him keep down the powerful
drugs he needs to survive and the food he needs to keep up his
strength. Without it, the book publisher and best-selling author
fears he will die.

But for more than a year, McWilliams has been barred from smoking
marijuana while he awaits trial on a variety of marijuana-related
charges. He says he was growing it for his own consumption, and had
not used it for more than 20 years until he became ill. Federal
prosecutors charge that he was conspiring to sell it along with his
codefendants, all of them users of medical marijuana.

Either way, McWilliams’s situation underscores the ongoing conflict
between the state and federal governments over the use of marijuana by
patients with AIDS, cancer, or chronic pain – despite some medical
studies and much anecdotal evidence showing its palliative benefits.

California voters became the first to approve medical marijuana for
patients with a doctor’s approval in November 1996 – the same year
McWilliams discovered a lump in his neck and learned he had
non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and AIDS. Washington followed last fall, and
several states are considering similar measures. But the federal
government maintains that the sale or distribution of marijuana
remains illegal under all circumstances.

”The laws against medical marijuana are crazy in the first place,”
said state Senator John Vasconcellos, a Democrat who has led the
charge to legalize medical marijuana and keep it legal in California.
”But to say that people who are dying of cancer and AIDS can’t
relieve their pain is awful. By denying Peter McWilliams the right to
smoke marijuana while he’s out on [$250,000] bail, they’re denying him

McWilliams’s trial is still a month away. For now, he is mostly
confined to his home, relying on friends to bring him the milk he
gulps by the glassful and the honey-roasted peanuts he eats by the
fistful because they do not make him nauseated.

Unable to work, McWilliams finds his Prelude Press bordering on
bankruptcy. Unable to walk even short distances, he uses a wheelchair
for court appearances. The other day, his face dripping sweat, he
nodded off in the hallway while inside the courtroom where his hearing
was being postponed.

Of the first time he smoked marijuana after chemotherapy, McWilliams
said, ”I had this epiphany: ‘Oh my God, this stuff really works.’
Then I got mad, furious, thinking about all the millions of cancer
patients who this could be helping.”

Repeatedly turned down by a federal judge who says he cannot authorize
someone to break the law, McWilliams now hopes a federal appellate
court, which recently ruled that seriously ill people should be
allowed to use medical marijuana, will give him access to the only
drug that he has found to keep his nausea under control. Other
defendants in federal marijuana cases are expected to mount similar
appeals based on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

To federal prosecutors, however, McWilliams’s case has nothing to do
with medical marijuana and everything to do with a drug ring,
regardless of why the defendants were growing the plants or who was
using them. McWilliams is accused of masterminding the plot, in part
because of the $120,000 that McWilliams says he paid codefendant Todd
McCormick, a medical marijuana patient and researcher, to write two
books on the subject. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

”We all admit to what we’ve done,” said McWilliams, who previously
bought marijuana on the black market or at the cannabis clubs that had
sprung up around California after the passage of the law known as
Proposition 215.

”We all grew marijuana; we all used marijuana,” he continued. ”The
300 plants I had were my own personal stash … Todd was studying
which strains work best for which types of illnesses. I mean all his
plants were labeled.”

But federal prosecutors say that is no defense. In fact, they do not
want the defendants to be able to introduce a medical-necessity
defense, discuss the benefits of marijuana, or even mention
Proposition 215 to jurors. Both sides are scheduled to argue their
positions next week before US District Court Judge George King.

”The way that I characterize this case is that it involves a
conspiracy to conduct a commercial marijuana-growing operation
involving more than 6,000 plants at four separate growing sites,”
said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Los
Angeles, which is handling the case. ”It doesn’t matter where they
were going to sell it. It doesn’t matter if they say, `I’m doing this
to save my life.’ It’s illegal to manufacture or cultivate marijuana
under federal law.”

If prosecutors succeed in keeping those issues out of court,
McWilliams’s attorney, Thomas Bollanco, said the defendants may as
well head straight to prison. Without medical necessity, they have no

”We’re going to be left unable to answer to the charges because we
can only answer with what’s true, and what’s true is that these guys
were motivated by their medical needs and Prop 215,” said Bollanco,
who recently lost a federal jury trial in Sacramento in which the
judge refused to allow a medical necessity defense.

Yet even on a state level, the answer to the medical marijuana debate
remains murky. Lacking clear-cut guidelines, law enforcement
officials in some jurisdictions actively pursue arrests, others tend
to look the other way. Last year, a task force including advocates
and opponents worked to craft a compromise. This year, the resulting
bill was tabled. Faced with federal opposition, California Governor
Gray Davis has resisted giving it his approval.

But California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, unlike his predecessor,
appears to favor the voters’ decision to allow the use of medical
marijuana, although he has called Prop 215 poorly written and open to
too much interpretation. This month, he urged US Attorney General
Janet Reno to let the appellate court ruling stand.

Possibly turned off by the number of marijuana plants involved – or by
McWilliams’ admitted eccentricities – few have rallied around his case
and some have turned against him. He insisted he is hurt but not
angry or surprised by his isolation. After his arrest, McWilliams
spent almost a month in jail until he could raise the money to post

”I am the representative of all the sick people and what they are
doing to me is only the worst case right now, but there will be
others,” McWilliams said. ”I am living on borrowed time anyway. I
owe this part of my life to luck and modern medical science. But I
can’t imagine what the rest of it will be like if they won’t let me
use medical marijuana.”



Dear editor,

Thank you for Lynda Gorov’s informative article about medical
marijuana patient and federal criminal defendant Peter McWilliams.

I first became aware of this heroic figure on July 4, 1998 when I was
awakened by a speech he was giving on C-Span, addressing the
Libertarian Party in Washington, D.C. As a medical marijuana patient
myself, having used it to prevent epileptic seizures since 1980, I was
overjoyed to see somebody wave a joint around in front of the C-Span

It wasn’t difficult to contact Peter. That same day I performed a
simple keyword search of his name on the Internet, quickly found his
websites and his e-mail address and heard back from him before
bedtime. That was only a few weeks before his bust.

After his bust, I purchased a copy his best-selling book, “Ain’t
Nobody’s Business if You Do” and was not disappointed by the hype. It
is a wake-up call alerting us of the extreme extent to which our
desire to live “safely” has endangered our liberty.

As an outspoken member of a conscientiously-dissenting minority, Peter
McWilliams is the victim of political persecution. He is a victim of
a tyrannical majority which our Founding Fathers anticipated when they
conceived the Bill of Rights.

Larry A. Stevens

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