FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 5, 1999
Contact: Tom Ballanco: 310/291-3659 David Michael: 530-304-7793; Peter
McWilliams 310/650-8489; <http://petertrial.com>;
Communication Works, 415/255-1946
U.S. District Court Judge Bars Medical Necessity Defense, Mention of Prop. 215,
in Case against Medical Marijuana Patients Todd McCormick and Peter McWilliams
McWilliams, McCormick Face 10 Years in Jail; Critically Ill AIDS Patient
McWilliams Fears Imminent Death Behind Bars
Decision Directly Counters Ninth Circuit Ruling that Supports Medical
Necessity Defense in Medical Marijuana Cases
LOS ANGELES, CA - In a decision that has left medical marijuana patients
and advocates reeling, U.S. District Court Judge George King ruled today
that there may be no mention of medical marijuana, California's Proposition
215 or the medical conditions of critically ill patients Todd McCormick and
Peter McWilliams during the federal trial that alleges that the
co-defendants illegally manufactured marijuana.
Today's ruling directly counters a recent landmark decision by the U.S.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On September 13, 1999, a Ninth Circuit
panel unanimously ruled that "medical necessity" can be a viable
for people accused of breaking federal marijuana laws. The panel ordered
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer to take into account evidence that
some patients need marijuana to treat debilitating and life-threatening
ailments in the federal lawsuit against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Although both defendants argue that they are qualified medical marijuana
patients under the terms of California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996
(Proposition 215), the jury in their trial, which starts in Los Angeles on
November 16, will not be allowed to hear any defenses that relate to their
medical conditions, or to medical marijuana.
"How can this happen in America? I can't tell a jury why I used medical
marijuana? I am stunned; speechless. The government monopoly on justice has
just handed me a "Go to jail for life" card. I now face ten mandatory
in federal prison. I will die there. My life is over because I tried to
save my life doing something my doctor recommended in a state where it is
legal. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone," said Peter
McWilliams, who is critically ill with AIDS.
"This is clear proof that medical facts and the war on drugs are mutually
exclusive," says Thomas Ballanco, attorney for Peter McWilliams. Prior to
his 1998 arrest, McWilliams depended on medical marijuana, an anti-nausea
medication, to enable him to digest his combination drug therapy. Since his
arrest, when the federal government barred him from using medical
marijuana, McWilliams has been able to keep down only a fraction of his
treatments and his viral load has risen to a life-threatening level of
250,000. When his viral load reached 12,500 in 1996, he had already
developed an AIDS-related cancer. His doctors believe he has only a short
time to live and that a prison term would spell certain death for the
former publisher and journalist.
"The Constitution is under attack from many fronts. The courts have
followed a precedent favorable to the government in their prosecution, but
have found every way possible to avoid decisions from the same courts that
recognize individuals' rights," says David Michael, who represents medical
marijuana patient Todd McCormick. McCormick, who received radical cancer
treatments nine times before he was 10 years old, used medical marijuana
until his 1997 arrest to alleviate the chronic pain he suffers as a result.
Today's ruling means that the course of this trial will run along the lines
of the federal trial against medical marijuana patient and caregiver B.E.
Smith, who was sentenced to 27 months in prison in May 1999 after U.S.
District Court Judge Charles E. Burrell refused to let the jury hear any
defenses relating to medical marijuana or Proposition 215.
"Counsel for defendants are instructed not to make any reference in
whatever form including but not limited to arguments, questions, comments,
testimony or evidence, to Proposition 215, the medical usefulness of
marijuana, the closed single patient investigative new drug program [in
which the federal government supplies marijuana to eight patients each
month for medical use], defendants' reliance on advice of counsel and
defendants' medical conditions. Counsel are further instructed to assure
that no other persons, including their clients (the defendants), and their
witnesses, make any such prohibited references at trial," according to the
ruling, which was issued on Friday, November 5.
McWilliams, 50, was arrested in 1998 by federal agents on charges that he
financed the cultivation of over 6,000 marijuana plants to sell to
marijuana clubs. McWilliams, the author of five best-selling books,
contends that his only role in the alleged conspiracy was paying a book
advance to McCormick, 28, whom McWilliams had commissioned to write two
books on medical marijuana - one of which is currently on-line at
says he was growing medical marijuana
seedlings for his own personal medical use and for his research on the
books he was writing for McWilliams.