IS TODD MCCORMICK?
memo from Peter McWilliams
IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 30,
name Todd McCormick will almost certainly cross your newsdesk today--the first
medical marijuana arrest in California since the passage of Proposition 215. You
may be wondering what sort of person he is--an opportunistic drug dealer or a
compassionate patient. Here's my take on Todd.
Todd and I met ten
months ago while I was researching a book on medical marijuana. (AIDS and cancer
in March 1996 convinced me of marijuana's medicinal effectiveness and turned
medical marijuana into my central political cause.) Todd and I have become close
friends, and I probably know him better than anyone else in the press. I want
you to know the real Todd McCormick, one very different from the one the
carefully orchestrated bust and the spin the government has been rehearsing for
weeks is sure to take.
Todd McCormick had
cancer nine times before the age of ten. The top five vertebrae of his neck are
fused. He has one hip the size of the 25-year-old man he is, another hip the
size of a ten-year-old--the age he was when bone-cancer radiation stopped that
hip from growing. Even if his cancer never returns, the fused vertebrae cut his
life expectancy in half. This Saturday he confided in me his bone cancer may
have returned. He was to see my oncologist this week for a check-up.
Todd's house is the
ugliest structure in Bel Air. It was built to resemble a castle; a castle made
out of stucco. Nouveau mideveil. The house is more a research facility than a
marijuana factory. Todd used the house as an ad hoc university of medical
marijuana education--cultivation but one of many subjects discussed. It quickly
became the cultural center of Southern California's medical marijuana movement.
the government couldn't miss Todd's house. He had dozens of varieties growing
everywhere; inside, outside. He loves the marijuana plant and, like George
Washington before him, wanted to see it growing everywhere. Everyday all day
there were new sick people or caregivers for sick people and Todd would
enthusiastically answer all questions. We (us old farts) all warned him to be
more careful--more discreet--in who he allowed to see what some consider
"evidence," but Todd's heart was too big to listen. All someone had to
say was that they were sick--or knew someone who was sick--and Todd opened right
marijuana with his life, so he is highly sympathetic to those in medical need.
Todd's mother started giving him medical marijuana for the nausea of
chemotherapy and radiation when Todd was nine. Todd feels he never would have
survived that bout with cancer--his eighth--without marijuana. Kids on his ward
were dying of malnutrition brought on by nausea, yet Todd retained a healthy
appetite and--as importantly, he thinks--a healthy attitude. His mother couldn't
tell the other mothers in the children's cancer ward: if word got out she was
giving a nine-year-old marijuana they would have taken Todd from her.
Todd's life is his
work, his work being the education about and propagation of an herb he
personally knows eases suffering and saves lives. Money never crosses his mind.
To call Todd (as I'm certain they will; I haven't heard a single press report
yet) a major drug dealer is particularly absurd in Todd's case: Todd was buying
marijuana from others for his own medicinal use as late as last week. Not that
Todd hasn't harvested some marijuana at his house. It's just that Todd is
hopeless with marijuana: he gives it away to sick people the second he gets any.
He is simply not to be trusted.
Todd is a good
person on an important mission--a mission I, too, have adopted as my own. The
blow against Todd McCormick is a blow against all sick people as well as a slap
in the face to the will of the People of California. Todd's arrest is almost
certainly politically motivated. Whether it was the right holding the hard line
on drugs or the left hysterically overreacting to the right's overreaction, they
have chosen a young man with a compassionate heart and a broken body and put him
in jail. To what end? In addition to jailing him--and holding him at an absurd
$1,000,000 bail--they may at a stroke wipe out Todd's years of research into the
effects of different strains of medical marijuana on different illnesses. Some
of that genetic material is irreplaceable. If it goes, it will be a permanent
loss to medicine--a great medicine, dwarfed by precisely sixty years of insane
federal prohibition (the Marihuana Stamp Act of 1937).
The sun lights my
keyboard. I feel (and look) like the Shelley Winters character in "The
Diary of Anne Frank." Will they come for me today, or not? Will the press
finally stand up to the Drugs War propaganda machine, or not. The forces of
compassion and the forces of oppression meet in holy battle for the soul of
America. The wounded are being seized as prisoners. Yes, the Drug War Armageddon
has begun. This is the story of the year, and Todd is Compassionate Person of
for press was here.]