McWilliams Not Allowed To Use Medical Defense

Date: Sun, 07 Nov 1999
Subject: McWilliams Not Allowed To Use Medical Defense

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 135 Sunday November 7. 1999

McWilliams Not Allowed To Use Medical Defense



DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 135 Sunday November 7. 1999

McWilliams Not Allowed To Use Medical Defense

In 1996 California voters approved a measure to allow the use of
medical marijuana. Since then, voters in several other states have
done the same. On Friday a federal judge again exhibited the federal
government’s complete disregard for the will of the people on this
issue by ruling that medical marijuana users Peter McWilliams and Todd
McCormick will not be allowed to use a medical defense during their
upcoming trials for growing the life-saving medicine.

Even though the trial hasn’t even started, the judge’s ruling is an
effective death sentence for Peter, who suffers from AIDS and cancer.
“I now face ten mandatory years in federal prison. I will die there.
My life is over because I tried to save my life doing something my
doctor recommended in a state where it is legal. If it happened to me,
it can happen to anyone,” said Peter in a press release. (For more
specifics about the case, visit Peter’s website at

The story is now receiving more coverage from the New York Times
(below) as well as other papers. Please write a letter to the NYT, or
the LA Times, to speak out about this cruel and unjust action by the
federal government. You may also want to try and contact President
Clinton via an online chat session Monday night to ask why he and his
administration refuse to feel the pain of medical marijuana users.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


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Source: New York Times (NY)


Please also send a separate copy of your letter to the Los Angeles
Times, which ran a shorter story (

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)


President Clinton will be taking questions during an internet forum
Monday night. Please ask the president why his administration
continues its cruel persecution of medical marijuana patients like
Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick even though voters have approved
medical marijuana in every state where the issue has been raised.

The Clinton event is scheduled to being at 7 p.m. EST Monday. The
Internet address is


Pubdate: Sun, 07 Nov 1999
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 1999 The New York Times Company
Related: Websites:


LOS ANGELES — In a July 1997 raid, police officers and federal agents
here found more than 4,000 marijuana plants in a Bel-Air mansion known
as the castle, near the home of Ronald Reagan, whose administration
created the “zero tolerance” approach to illegal drugs.

With a trial scheduled to begin Nov. 16, the case has turned into a
test of judicial tolerance for a defense strategy based on marijuana’s
medical uses.

Two defendants, Todd McCormick and Peter McWilliams, advocate
legalizing marijuana for medical use and have used it to treat their
own ailments: McCormick for pain from cancer treatments that fused
several of his vertebrae, and McWilliams for nausea from drugs he
takes to treat AIDS.

Saying the plants were for personal use and research on a book about
medical marijuana, they contend their actions were legal under
Proposition 215, the ballot measure approved by California voters in
1996 allowing patients to smoke marijuana with a doctor’s

Federal prosecutors, however, sought and received an order from a
federal judge barring the defendants from telling the jury that side
of the story, even offering to drop some of the counts against them to
keep those issues out of the courtroom.

In a ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge George King prohibited the
defendants from making any reference to Proposition 215, the purported
medical benefits of marijuana or even the federal government’s own
experimental program, now closed, providing marijuana to patients.

The defendants say they are not being allowed to defend themselves.
“I’m devastated,” McWilliams said in an interview on Friday. “I can’t
even present my case to the jury. We just have to sit there and listen
to the evidence, and we’ve already admitted everything. Obviously, the
federal government is stonewalling any discussion of medical marijuana
in any forum.”

McWilliams, a best-selling self-help author, McCormick, who founded a
club that distributes marijuana for medical purposes, and another
defendant, Aleksandra Evanguelidi, were among nine people charged with
conspiring to grow and sell marijuana. They face minimum prison
sentences of 10 years if convicted. Three other defendants have
pleaded guilty.

In court filings, prosecutors have said the medical issues are
irrelevant to the charges, and if allowed into evidence, “will serve
only to confuse and mislead the jury.” Further, they maintain that if
the defendants want to change the government’s position on marijuana,
they should petition the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Whether the defendants like it or not, the proper challenge is
through the regulatory process,” Mary Fulginiti, a prosecutor, said in
court last month.

The trial comes at a time of increasing conflict in America’s
relationship with marijuana. On Tuesday, voters in Maine approved an
initiative allowing medical use, joining six Western states. A report
commissioned by the Clinton administration concluded earlier this year
that marijuana’s active ingredients were useful in treating pain and
nausea, though the benefits were limited by the smoke’s toxic effects.

And in September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a
cannabis club in Oakland to resume providing marijuana to patients, in
the face of an injunction from the Clinton administration.

Yet marijuana remains classified by Congress as a Schedule I
controlled substance, putting it in the company of heroin and LSD.
That raised a central question: whether the defendants could assert a
“medical necessity defense,” maintaining that they broke the law
because their health required it.

Prosecutors contended that marijuana’s Schedule I status precluded
such an argument, because it legally defined the drug as having no
legitimate use. But defense lawyers maintained that the appeals court
decision in the Oakland case opened the door to such a defense.

Federal prosecutors are so intent on keeping medical issues out of the
courtroom in the case that they agreed to dismiss charges of intent to
distribute if the judge barred the medical-necessity defense. Under
the law, the defendants could have been allowed to assert that
Proposition 215 and their medical conditions contributed to their
“state of mind” if they were prosecuted on the intent charges. But
with manufacturing charges, state of mind is not relevant.

In his ruling, King said the medical-necessity defense would be
unavailable to the defendants because allowing them to use it would
explicitly contradict a congressional determination. Judge King found
that the appeals court ruling in Oakland did not directly address the
issue, and he rejected admission of Proposition 215 and medical
benefits of marijuana because the government agreed to limit its case
to simple manufacturing charges.

The number of marijuana plants, which rose to more than 6,000 after
the discovery of other growing sites, has led to charges that the
defendants sought to reap profits by selling to cannabis clubs, an
enterprise not sanctioned by Proposition 215, which allows possession
in “personal use amounts.”

According to court documents, the two men signed a detailed agreement
on financing and managing cultivation sites, distribution plans and
profit sharing. McWilliams is accused of approaching an employee of a
cannabis club with an offer to sell it marijuana, saying that he
wanted to become the “Bill Gates of medical marijuana.”

The case has become a celebrated one with legalization advocates. The
actor Woody Harrelson, who was once arrested for planting hemp seeds
in a ceremonial protest, put up McCormick’s $500,000 bail, and Alan
Isaacman, the lawyer who defended Larry Flynt on pornography charges,
signed on to defend him.

McCormick made his case on the television show “Politically
Incorrect.” And a fugitive in the case, Renee Boje, who was hired by
McCormick to sketch the plants for his book, is profiled in the
December issue of Glamour magazine under the headline “Drug Queenpin
or Innocent Victim?”

Legalization advocates say the results of the case will serve as a
barometer of the federal government’s willingness to prosecute medical
marijuana cases aggressively in states where medical use is legal.

“To some degree, the outcome of this case will shape the extent to
which the federal government proceeds with additional federal
prosecutions for offenses which are no longer illegal under state
law,” said Keith Stroup, the executive director of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a lobbyist for
marijuana legalization. “If it’s a clean victory, it will encourage
them to use federal prosecution.”



In the wake of news that a federal judge will not allow medical
marijuana patients Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick to use a
medical defense during their upcoming trial for growing marijuana, we
are again reminded of the tremendous gap between Washington, D.C. and
the rest of the nation.

McWilliams and McCormick used marijuana to save their lives. They
engaged in an activity they thought had been approved by the voters of
California. But instead of letting the people of California take care
of their own business, federal officials have used enormous resources
to spy on, arrest and now try medical marijuana users. McWilliams and
McCormick aren’t the first medical marijuana patients to be railroaded
through a federal court, and, sadly, it looks like they won’t be the

It’s time for every citizen to ask themselves: On whose behalf are
federal prosecutors working in cases like this? McWilliams and
McCormick have injured no one. They pose a threat to no one.
Persecuting citizens who are already under attack by horrible diseases
illustrates how desperate federal officials are to maintain their own
illusions about marijuana.

Despite what the judge and prosecutors in this case may believe, most
of us are fully aware that those illusions are not worth the life of
McWilliams, the suffering of McCormick or the subversion of the
democratic process. Marijuana does not kill human beings, but once
again, the war against marijuana is poised to strike down another life.

Stephen Young

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