Author's arrest revives issue of medical uses for marijuana
October 30, 1997
BY DAN SHINE
Free Press Staff Writer
The national debate on marijuana use for
medicinal purposes will come to a
Romulus courtroom next month, one of
the first such cases in Michigan since the
law allowing therapeutic use of the drug
expired in the state in 1987.
Peter McWilliams, a California author
and Allen Park native, said the seven
marijuana cigarettes he was caught with
at Metro Airport in December were part
of his treatment for cancer and AIDS. He
said his doctor had recommended he use
the drug to fight nausea and increase his
Prosecutors were prepared to excuse
McWilliams' oversight but decided to
charge him after discovering that the
48-year-old had a previous pot possession
conviction from his teenage years 30
If convicted of the misdemeanor, he
could face up to one year in jail.
"I'm not a radical point maker,"
McWilliams said Wednesday from his
Los Angeles home. "But they're
threatening me with one year in jail so I'm
happy for the opportunity to stand up for
all the people of Michigan who may not
know that marijuana can help them."
On Wednesday, 34th District Judge Tina
Green said she would allow McWilliams'
attorney to call experts on the medical use
of marijuana when the trial begins Nov.
21. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor
Luke Skywalker had tried to exclude the
medical experts, saying they were not
relevant to the charge of marijuana
McWilliams said he hopes his case spurs
discussion on legalizing marijuana for
medical purposes again in Michigan.
Legislators, he said, "need to make an
exception for sick people."
Last year, voters in California and
Arizona approved such measures. The
United States outlawed marijuana in 1937
except for approved research. Possession
remains a federal crime.
Chuck Thomas of the Marijuana Policy
Project, a national group favoring the
medical use of the drug, said 36 states in
the past 20 years have passed legislation
supporting medical use of marijuana.
However, most are only symbolic since
they do not provide for legal supply of the
drug, as do the measures in California and
Thomas said Washington state has a
proposition similar to the Arizona
measure on its November ballot. He also
said he expects five to 10 states with laws
allowing medical use of marijuana to
provide for a legal supply by next fall.
Michigan law allowed marijuana for
medical purposes from 1979 to 1987. In
1994, state Rep. Thomas Mathieu,
D-Grand Rapids, offered an amendment
containing provisions for the use of
marijuana for medicinal purposes. The
amendment passed the House, 86-7, only
to be removed by the Senate. The bill
was signed without the provision.
The scientific and medical communities
have increased their support for the use
of marijuana as a treatment aid. The
National Institutes of Health recently
issued a report calling for tests of
marijuana's effectiveness and the New
England Journal of Medicine has
condemned political interference in the
Patients with glaucoma, neurological
diseases, AIDS and cancer have found
marijuana helpful in treating their illness
or the side effects of treatment.
Those who argue against using the drug
for medicinal purposes say marijuana is
not medicine and to legalize it will only
confuse children who are being taught to
stay away from it.
McWilliams, who writes self-help books,
said the drug has let him live a better life
while battling cancer and AIDS.
"This stuff really works," he said of pot.
"It is a genuine medicine."
The Marijuana Policy Project has a web
page, at http://www.mpp.org
Staff writer Dan Shine can be reached at
1-313-432-6501 or by E-mail at