MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Cancer Patient Awaits Trial
Publisher and best-selling author, Peter McWilliams, who has AIDS and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in remission, is the center of an "on-going conflict between the state and federal governments over the use of marijuana by patients with AIDS, cancer or chronic pain," notes the Boston Globe. Federal prosecutors have barred McWilliams from smoking marijuana while he awaits trial on a variety of pot-related charges, including conspiring to sell the drugs along with his codefendents, all users of medical marijuana. Globe staff writer Lynda Gorov notes that McWilliams' struggle underscores a larger conflict between states and federal governments over the use of marijuana as a medical treatment. In November 1996, California residents voted in favor of Proposition 215, making it the first state to "approve medical marijuana for patients with a doctor's approval." Federal officials, however, maintain that "the sale or distribution of [this drug] remains illegal under all circumstances," and hope to stop what they see as a potential "drug ring." The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently delivered a ruling allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana to treat nausea. McWilliams hopes that the U.S. District Court will uphold this decision; arguments are scheduled to be heard next week. If successful, it will open the door for other defendants in similar cases. California state Senator John Vasconcellos (D), a leader in the movement to legalize medical marijuana, argues, "[T]o say that people who are dying of cancer and AIDS can't relieve their pain is awful. By denying Peter McWilliams the right to smoke marijuana ... they're denying him life." But McWilliams' Federal prosecutors argue that the case has "nothing to do with medical marijuana and everything to do with a drug ring," regardless of why the defendants were growing the plants to who was using them. If convicted, McWilliams and his codefendents could face life in prison. McWilliams said, "I am the representative of all the sick people and what they are doing to me is only the worst case right now, but there will be others. ... I owe this part of my life to luck and modern medical science. But I can't imagine what the rest of it will be like if they won't let me use medical marijuana" (10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.