MEDICAL MARIJUANA: McWilliams, McCormick Plead Guilty
Two advocates for the use of medicinal marijuana pleaded guilty Friday to charges of conspiracy to "manufacture and distribute" more than 6,000 plants. In doing so, Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick "capitulated" to facts they dispute outside the courtroom -- that the men conspired to grow and sell marijuana to cannibis clubs. Both men maintain that the plants in his possession were intended for personal use; McWilliams has AIDS and McCormick suffers from fused vertebrae resulting from childhood cancer treatments. Moreover, McWilliams, a publisher, insists that the $100,000 he gave to McCormick was an advance on a book about medicinal marijuana, not financing for a pot-growing operation. Both defendants had planned on using a "medical necessity defense" in their cases, but Los Angeles' Federal District Court Judge George King "barred them from raising those issues" in court; the judge concurred with prosecutors that a jury could be confused or misled by the defense. Thus, McWilliams lawyer Tom Ballanco said the men's "only hope" for avoiding jailtime is judicial mercy -- for the judge to "demonstrate there is some compassion in the federal law." Under the law, McWilliams and McCormick each face up to 5 years in prison. While McWilliams declined his right to appeal, McCormick will appeal Judge King's ruling on the medical necessity defense, basing his appeal on a September 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing an Oakland cannabis club to continue operating under this defense (AP/New York Times, 11/21).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.