Letter to then-DEA Administrator, Thomas Constantine
December 23, 1997
Administrator Thomas A. Constantine
Drug Enforcement Administration
Washington, D.C. 20537
Dear Administrator Constantine:
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California has been
contacted by Mr. Peter McWilliams concerning the execution of a search warrant
by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at two homes owned by Mr.
McWilliams, as well as his place of business in Los Angeles.
Mr. McWilliams is an author and publisher who has
openly criticized the DEA. Recently,
he took out a two-page advertisement in Variety highly critical of the
agency. As you probably know, Mr.
McWilliams has plans to publish a book by Todd McCormick, a cancer patient
arrested for growing marijuana plants. He
is also writing his own book, A
Question of Compassion: An AIDS Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana.
On December 17, agents searched the premises pursuant
to a sealed warrant, the contents of which were not made known to Mr.
McWilliams. The warrant
purportedly allowed DEA access to papers, computer files, address lists, and
other written material owned or controlled by Mr. McWilliams.
Agents seized, among other things,
Mr. McWilliams' computer and his two external back-up drives.
In addition, agents went through research documents and other papers in
Mr. McWilliams' home, and confiscated eight bags full of paper. The DEA
provided no particularized accounting to Mr. McWilliams of the papers taken.
Moreover, an agent searching Mr. McWilliams'
publishing business, Prelude Press, reportedly told the manager that the DEA
would take over the company in the next six months.
By all appearances, the search warrant and the
conduct of the search may represent a broad attempt by the DEA to retaliate
against Mr. McWilliams for exercising his First Amendment rights to criticize a
government agency and to suppress his efforts to write and publish about the
medical use of marijuana. The DEA
took all the material related to the two books on this topic on which Mr.
McWilliams was actively working. It
is well known that the DEA opposes the use of the medical marijuana, and came
out forcefully against the Compassionate Use Initiative that passed recently in
We are gravely concerned about the possible
constitutional and other legal violations that may have occurred here and intend
to study the issue closely.
I would like to hear from you on these issues.
UCLA of Southern California
Special Agent Robert Bender
Counsel Cynthia Ryan