Thursday, February 12, 1998
Cancer Patient Seeks Judge's OK to Use Marijuana
Courts: Man freed on bail as he awaits trial on charges of growing pot says he needs the drug for pain.
By SUE MCALLISTER, Special to The Times
Lawyers for medical marijuana proponent Todd McCormick, who was arrested last summer for allegedly growing thousands of marijuana plants in a home in Bel-Air, asked a federal judge Wednesday to allow him to smoke marijuana while he awaits trial.
McCormick, 27, has said he used marijuana to treat pain from recurrent cancer, which he has suffered from since he was a child. His rented home on Stone Canyon Road was filled with more than 4,000 marijuana plants when he was arrested last July.
Using marijuana for medical purposes became legal in California with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. But McCormick faces a federal charge of manufacturing marijuana, punishable by at least 10 years in prison. He is free on $500,000 bail, but the standard conditions of bail prohibit him from using illegal drugs. In addition, he is required to undergo random pretrial drug tests.
McCormick's lawyer, David M. Michael, said, "Any judge that has a sense of compassion is going to realize that what Todd is asking for is . . . something that's bona fide, something that's been so extraordinarily documented. . . . I can't think of a reason why a judge would want to deny him his medical marijuana."
McCormick said during a news conference outside the Roybal Federal Building that since being deprived of marijuana, he has suffered from chronic pain and fatigue, lack of appetite and depression. Other pain remedies have been less effective than marijuana, he said.
"I never used to get depressed about cancer," he told a reporter after the news conference. "I used to smoke a joint and forget about it." McCormick said that if he is allowed to resume using marijuana he will probably procure it from a cannabis buyers' club. Such clubs have been under fire from federal authorities.
Michael said the motion filed Wednesday also asks Judge George King to reduce the amount of McCormick's bail, which was posted by actor Woody Harrelson. A hearing will be held March 9. Assistant U.S. Atty. Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, who is prosecuting McCormick, would not comment on his office's response to the motion, saying he had yet to read it.
McCormick moved out of the Bel-Air house a week ago and is now living in Laurel Canyon in a house owned by his employer, author and publisher Peter McWilliams.