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Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jun 2000
Source: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Daily News of Los Angeles
Address: P.O. Box 4200, Woodland Hills, CA 91365
Fax: (818)713-3723
Feedback: http://www.DailyNews.com/contact/letters.asp
Website: Los Angeles Daily News
Author: Ernst F. Ghermann


Last Wednesday, Peter McWilliams was found dead in his bathroom. Some maintain that it
was murder, plain and simple. The question is, who was responsible for his death?

McWilliams was afflicted with the cancer of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and with AIDS. To
treat his illness, he had to take so many pills that nausea and constant vomiting made it
impossible for him to keep down his expensive medication.

The only treatment that McWilliams found effective in controlling his nausea was medical
marijuana. Since the diagnosis of his cancer in March 1996, he was able to keep his illness in
check with medication by controlling his nausea with marijuana. It kept him alive.

Voters in California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to make the use of marijuana legal for
medical purposes.

Following the passage of Proposition 215, McWilliams teamed up with Todd McCormick to
grow medical marijuana for cooperatives that supply the drug to medical patients in California.

Unfortunately, the federal government cares not a whit about what Californians want. In
1998, McWilliams and McCormick were arrested, their crop was confiscated and they were
put on trial by federal prosecutors who charged them with conspiring to possess, manufacture
and sell marijuana.

At his trial, the judge prohibited McWilliams from introducing any mention of his illness, the
medical marijuana issue or Proposition 215 in his defense. Unable to defend himself,
McWilliams was forced to plead guilty or face a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

While waiting for sentencing, he was free on bail and prohibited from using marijuana. His
parents put up their house for the $250,000 bail. They would have lost their home if
McWilliams had tested positive for marijuana.

At the time of his arrest, his illness was under control and his viral content was down to zero.
But, as ordered by the judge, McWilliams stopped using the nausea-controlling medicine that
had enabled him to keep down his cancer and AIDS medications. The judge even denied him
the use of Marinol, the "legal" pill-form of synthetic THC.

His health deteriorated and earlier this month, being denied the use of his anti-emetic, he
choked to death on his own vomit. And so, at age 50, Peter McWilliams became another
casualty of the government's insane war on drugs.

Who killed Peter McWilliams? Some argue that it was the drug-war agents who initiated the
raid on the house where the medical marijuana was grown. Others blame Assistant U.S.
Attorneys Jackie Chooljian and Mary Fulginiti, who prosecuted McWilliams and who now
say, We are very saddened by Mr. McWilliams' death.

Still others say that U.S. District Judge George H. King is responsible by first denying him a
defense, and then by denying him his nausea-controlling medicine.

By their actions, all of these bear responsibility for the early death of McWilliams. But
ultimately, they were carrying on the war on drugs mandated by the laws passed in Congress.
Thus, this death, as so many others, must be laid at the feet of Dianne Feinstein, Barbara
Boxer, Buck McKeon, Brad Sherman, Elton Gallegly, Howard Berman and all the other
senators and representatives who voted for the war on drugs and who let it continue by not
repealing it.

But you, dear reader, are also responsible -- you voted for these people. OK, perhaps you
didn't vote for them, but why do you not write or call them - -- they are your representatives
-- and demand that they put an end to this tragic war and its innocent victims? How long will
you let this carnage continue?

Ernst Ghermann lives in Winnetka and is a delegate to the Libertarian Party National
Convention in Anaheim from June 30 through July 3.
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