Peter McWilliams Becomes Drug War Fatality

Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
Subject: Peter McWilliams Becomes Drug War Fatality

Peter McWilliams Becomes Drug War Fatality


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #175 June, 22, 2000

Despite grave illness, legal troubles and financial problems, Peter
McWilliams always spread the word about the cruel folly of the drug
war. Peter was finally silenced last week thanks to the policies he
protested so eloquently. An AIDS and cancer patient who was denied
medical marijuana while waiting to be sentenced on drug charges, Peter
choked to death after vomiting. Considering that he used marijuana to
quell nausea from AIDS-fighting drugs, there is no question that
court-ordered restrictions of his medical marijuana use helped to kill

There have been some observers who have noticed this, like William F.
Buckley (see below). Unfortunately, many obituaries written for Peter
simply said that he died after a long battle with AIDS and cancer.
Please write a letter to thank Buckley for exposing the real truth
behind Peter’s death and/or write a letter to any of the newspapers
that ran an obituary of Peter to let them know that Peter’s death and
many of his recent troubles were all the result of drug


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


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Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter 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: Sacramento Bee (CA)


The LA Times (and many other papers) ran obituaries that didn’t
mention the fact that Peter died from a symptom that medical marijuana
could have prevented. The LA Times obituary can be found here:

Please write to the Times and other papers to let editors and readers
know what really happened.

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)

To find other obituaries and commentary on Peter’s death, go to MAP’s
DrugNews archive at and click ‘”go” on
the Quick Link box that lists “Peter McWilliams” as a hot topic.

All of the following newspapers have printed versions of this story
with the same basic information. Please send a copy of you letter to
these papers, and your local newspaper as well.



US: Column: Peter McWilliams, R.I.P.
Newshawk: There is no justice in the war on drugs!
Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2000
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Sacramento Bee
Address: P.O.Box 15779, Sacramento CA 95852
Author: William Buckley
Note: Write to William Buckley at Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St.,
Kansas City, Mo. 64111. His column appears in many newspapers. Bookmark:
MAP’s link to Peter McWilliams items is

PETER MCWILLIAMS, R.I.P. Peter McWilliams is dead. Age? Fifty.
Profession? Author, poet, publisher.

Particular focus of interest? The federal judge in California (George
King) would decide in a few weeks how long a sentence to hand down,
and whether to send McWilliams to prison or let him serve his sentence
at home.

What was his offense? He collaborated in growing marijuana

What was his defense? Well, the judge wouldn’t allow him to plead his
defense to the jury. If given a chance, the defense would have argued
that under Proposition 215, passed into California constitutional law
in 1996, infirm Californians who got medical relief from marijuana
were permitted to use it. The judge also forbade any mention that
McWilliams suffered from AIDS and cancer, and got relief from the marijuana.

What was he doing when he died? Vomiting. The vomiting hit him while
in his bathtub, and he choked to death.

Was there nothing he might have done to still the impulse to vomit?
Yes, he could have taken marijuana; but the judge’s bail terms forbade
him to do so, and he submitted to weekly urine tests to confirm that
he was living up to the terms of his bail.

Did anybody take note of the risk he was undergoing? He took Marinol –
— a proffered, legal substitute, but reported after using it that it
worked for him only about one-third of the time. When it didn’t work,
he vomited.

Was there no public protest against the judge’s ruling? Yes. On June
9, the television program “20/20” devoted a segment to the McWilliams
plight. Commentator John Stossel summarized:

“McWilliams is out of prison on the condition that he not smoke
marijuana, but it was the marijuana that kept him from vomiting up his
medication. I can understand that the federal drug police don’t agree
with what some states have decided to do about medical marijuana, but
does that give them the right to just end-run those laws and lock people up?”

Shortly after the trial last year, Charles Levendosky, writing in the
Ventura County (Calif.) Star, summarized: “The cancer treatment
resulted in complete remission.” But only the marijuana gave him
sustained relief from the vomiting that proved mortal.

Is it being said, in plain language, that the judge’s obstinacy
resulted in killing McWilliams? Yes. The Libertarian Party press
release has made exactly that charge. “McWilliams was prohibited from
using medical marijuna — and being denied access to the drug’s
anti-nausea properties almost certainly caused his death.”

Reflecting on the judge’s refusal to let the jury know that there was
understandable reason for McWilliams to believe he was acting legally,
I ended a column in this space in November by writing, “So, the fate
of Peter McWilliams is in the hands of Judge King. Perhaps the cool
thing for him to do is delay a ruling for a few months, and just let
Peter McWilliams die.” Well, that happened last week, on June 14.

The struggle against a fanatical imposition of federal laws on
marijuana will continue, as also on the question whether federal laws
can stifle state initiatives. Those who believe the marijuana laws are
insanely misdirected have a martyr.

Peter was a wry, mythogenic guy, humorous, affectionate, articulate,
shrewd, sassy. He courted anarchy at the moral level. His most recent
book (his final book) was called “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do.”
We were old friends, and I owe my early conversion to word processing
to his guidebook on how to do it. Over the years we corresponded, and
he would amiably twit my conservative opinions. When I judged him to
have gone rampant on his own individualistic views in his book, I
wrote him to that effect. I cherish his reply — nice acerbic
deference, the supreme put-down.

“Please remember the Law of Relativity as applied to politics: In
order for you to be right, at least someone else must be wrong. Your
rightness is only shown in relation to the other’s wrongness.
Conversely, your rightness is necessary for people like me to look
truly wrong. Before Bach, people said of bad organ music, ‘That’s not
quite right.’ After Bach, people said flatly, ‘That’s wrong.’ This
allowed dedicated composers to grow, and cast the neophytes back to
writing how-to-be-happy music. So, thank me for my wrongness, as so
many reviews of my book will doubtless say, ‘People should read more
of a truly great political commentator: William F. Buckley Jr.'”

Imagine such a spirit ending its life at 50, just because they
wouldn’t let him have a toke. We have to console ourselves with the
comment of the two prosecutors. They said they were “saddened” by
Peter McWilliams’ death. Many of us are — by his death and the causes
of it.



To the editor:

Supporters of marijuana prohibition sometimes say the war on weed is
worth all its drawbacks if it saves one child. But they never
acknowledge that marijuana prohibition is killing people, even though
no human being ever died from marijuana use. William F. Buckley was
completely correct to trace Peter McWilliam’s death to the federal war
on drugs and the bureaucrats who enforce it.

Before ever being convicted of anything, Peter’s property, including a
book in progress were seized. Then he was denied the right to use
effective medicine, despite state law that gave him that right. And
when he was tried he was not allowed to use a medical defense. When
Peter choked on his own vomit (a symptom he probably wouldn’t have
exhibited had he been allowed to use medical marijuana) it was last
blow in a vicious government assault against an enlightened individual
who embodied the injustice of the drug war. I hope Peter does rest in
peace, but I hope his death will help to agitate more citizens to
fight against the cruel policy that killed him.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – Focus
Alert Specialist