DrugSense Weekly - June 23, 2000 #154

DrugSense Weekly - June 23, 2000 #154
Posted by FoM on June 23, 2000 at 21:30:04 PT
From The Nation By Dan Mindus
Source: DrugSense
Murder In California The Case Of Peter McWilliams (1949-2000) Ushering in outbreaks of hysteria, Peter McWilliams, best selling author and medical marijuana activist, died on Wednesday. Some mostly libertarians are freely tossing around the word "murder" to describe the federal government's role in the 50 year old McWilliams' passing. 
"What the federal government did is nothing less than cold blooded, premeditated murder," charged Steve Dasbach, the national director of the Libertarian Party.Before we consign such talk to the Vince Foster lunatic fringe, perhaps some background would be appropriate. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes that follow are selected from three columns on the deceased crusader by the hardly hysterical William F. Buckley Jr. "For his illness [AIDS and cancer] he smokes every day. But after you do that for a few weeks you cease to get high. Marijuana becomes just something that stops nausea, eases pain, reduces inter ocular pressure, relaxes muscles, and takes the "bottom" out of a depression. So where do we go from here? To jail?"Exactly."Six thirty in the morning, nine DEA agents crash into McWilliams' house finding him at work on his computer. They simultaneously tell him he is not under arrest and handcuff him. They spend three hours going over every piece of paper in his house (they find one ounce of marijuana, which is within the California legal limit) and walk away with his computer. That is the equivalent of entering the New York Times and walking away with the printing machinery."How is this possible, given that California's Proposition 215 exempted patients from criminal penalties for the cultivation or possession of marijuana? "The feds take the position that the California proposition is after all overridden by federal legislation."McWilliams is arrested and charged. "The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles intends to recommend that McWilliams spend the next 10 years in jail for violating federal drug laws.... The meltdown is therefore now scheduled.... One hopes that Peter McWilliams, something of a bird of paradise, is left alone to take proper care of himself." Sadly, this proved to be wishful thinking. The judge prohibited McWilliams from mentioning that he had AIDS and cancer, thus denying him the traditional common law defense that necessity, the need to prevent greater harm, forced him to break the law. This despite the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals's unanimous ruling in 1999 that "medical necessity" can be a viable defense for people accused of breaking federal marijuana laws. One would think such a ruling would apply to McWilliams, who suffers from a not uncommon side effect of antiviral AIDS drugs: nausea. Without marijuana, McWilliams simply couldn't keep his meds down.The judge further prohibited McWilliams from mentioning Proposition 215, for this was a federal case. Facing the prospect of a ten year mandatory minimum sentence, and no plausible defense, McWilliams pled guilty. Bail was set at $250,000 and McWilliams' mother mortgaged the family home."One aspect of the bail regulation would have pleased George Orwell: He has to submit to a daily urine test to establish that he has not taken marijuana. If such a test were to prove positive, back he'd go to jail, and the family house, presumably, to the auction block." According to McWilliams, "The Federal prosecutor personally called my mother to tell her that if I was found with even a trace of medical marijuana, her house would be taken away."And so, the meltdown. Fearing foreclosure on his mother's house, McWilliams stopped taking the marijuana that controlled his nausea. He was found in his bathroom, having choked on his own vomit. One might say that this is no more a murder than a plane crash, which can be blamed on the airline or the FAA. But there's the crucial difference of intent. Here, the prosecutors knowingly prevented McWilliams from taking the medication marijuana that he claimed was saving his life. Perhaps they didn't believe him, and perhaps they didn't know any better, but these are the arguments of a defendant arguing that he is only guilty of manslaughter in the second degree. Look in the papers tomorrow for more wisdom on the subject from Mr. Buckley.Source: National Review Online (US Web)Copyright: 2000 National ReviewContact: letters Website: to read all of DrugSense Weekly's Update News:DrugSense Weekly - June 23, 2000 #154 MapInc Archives: Articles:MapInc. Articles On Peter McWilliams Drug War Victim McWilliams, R.I.P. in California from Peter McWilliams McWilliams Passes Away Peter McWilliams Memorial Services Of Peter McWilliams 1950 - 2000 
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