February 18, 1999
Contact: Rand Martin

Vasconcellos Statement about Peter McWilliams

Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) today issued the following
statement in supporting Peter McWilliams' entreaty to the federal court that
has denied him access to life-preserving medical marijuana while he battles
AIDS and cancer as well as drug conspiracy charges:
"Today I stand in spirit with my friend of 20 years, Peter McWilliams, as he
continues his heroic fight against a federal judiciary that has continued to
thumb its collective nose at the 5.6 million California voters who passed
Proposition 215, that has perpetuated the heartlessness of the Clinton
Administration in ignoring the medical benefit of marijuana to thousands of
suffering Californians.
"I find myself repeatedly outraged at the federal judiciary's disconnect
from the will of their friends, family, neighbors - fellow California
voters - who declared in no uncertain terms they want sick and suffering
Californians, with the advice of their physicians, to have access to
marijuana for medicinal purposes without criminal jeopardy. The arrogance
and inhumanity of the federal judiciary and the Clinton Administration
achieve levels of Beltway mentality that rivals the impeachment trial.
"As a result of precipitous action by the court, Mr. McWilliams - whose
health was long stable with the use of medicinal marijuana - is now in
failing health. He can only keep down his AIDS and cancer medications
through the use of medicinal marijuana to deal with his nausea. His viral
load has risen from under to 400 copies per milliliter to over 250,000. His
life is in jeopardy. The judge responsible for this decision must be held
accountable for jeopardizing Mr. McWilliams' life.
"Tragically, the federal court in Mr. McWilliams' case has exceeded this
arrogance and inhumanity to the point of verging on criminal culpability.
The voters of California have said that patients like Mr. McWilliams can
have access to medicinal marijuana; how dare the court conclude that Mr.
McWilliams has no right to medicinal marijuana BEFORE a jury has determined
whether he is in compliance with Proposition 215!
"Two years after the voters passed Proposition 215, the political leadership
in our state is finally in sync with the voters wishes. Governor Davis
appears far more sympathetic than former Governor Wilson; Attorney General
Lockyer has taken a decisive leadership role in making Proposition 215 work;
the leadership in the Legislature supports responsible implementation of
Proposition 215. We are poised to make substantial headway after the 2-year
Wilson-Lungren blockade.
"It is now incumbent on everyone of us Californians to activate ourselves in
convincing the federal government, its executive, legislative AND judicial
branches, that they must abide by the will of the voters. A tidal wave of
support for medicinal marijuana has begun in the western United States; the
future of many federal officials depends, in large part, on whether they
ride that wave into the future or, standing in the way, are rendered
irrelevant by the voters."

I sent the following letter to my e-mail list about Sen. Vasconcellos' press release. In the subject heading I referred to it as his Gettysburg Address. Also see my op-ed piece of September 16, 1999.

February 18, 1999
Since my release on bail in August 1998 for federal medical marijuana
charges, I have not been well enough to tell my side of the story.
I'm still not doing well, but the pending motion before a federal judge,
scheduled for next Monday, February 22, 1999, rallied me to make at least an
effort to lay out the facts.
They are contained at
The ACLU has been kind enough to host a press conference this Friday,
February 19, 1999, at 1:30 P.M. at the ACLU offices, 1616 Beverly Blvd., Los
I wish to thank the ACLU for its ongoing support and for taking on a task I
am simply unable to organize in my current condition.
And, finally, it is with tears in my eyes that I present to you the
eloquence of California State Senator John Vasconcellos.
It has been lonely these past six months since my release. My illness
prevents me from creating, which is my true passion. What little productive
time I have each day is spent preparing for my defense or fending off
creditors. (The year-long federal investigation, in which my computer and
working papers were seized, the month in custody, and the illness since my
release have kicked the life out of my cash flow.) I cannot have visitors. I
do not go out. (Germs, you know. A flu could kill me.) I live the life of a
hermit, laying in bed battling nausea, and going out only for medical
appointments and court appearances.
But in reading Sen. Vasconcello's stirring words, written in lightning, I am
reminded that I am not alone.
And I am not wrong.
I have not intentionally put my life in jeopardy for an unworthy cause. Like
those who tossed chests of tea into Boston Harbor, were stationmasters on
the Underground Railroad, were jailed for woman's suffrage and reproductive
rights, who stood up to McCarthy, Marched with King, and protested against
the War in Vietnam, Sen. Vasconcellos reminds me that getting marijuana to
those in medical need it is a worthy cause.
"If you don't have something you're willing to die for," wrote Martin Luther
King, "You're life's not worth living." I have found this to be true. In the
midst of my perhaps-impending death, I have never felt more fully alive.
Sen. Vasconcellos reminds me that a life can be just a letter--a perfectly
good letter, but still just a letter--or it can be part of a great sentence.
"Marijuana is medicine," is a sentence worth dying for.
Thanks to Sen. Vasconcello's stirring words (he has, in fact, written the
Gettysburg Address in the War Against Medical Marijuana), I feel
reinvigorated and connected to good people the world over and throughout
time, fighting a good fight. I just do mine alone, on my back, in a dark
Yes, I'm another an old whore for freedom.
Take care.
Peter McWilliams