(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
A federal judge refused this week to alter the conditions of release that bar a California AIDS patient from using potentially life saving medicine, marijuana, ruling that the denial is not a violation of his constitutional rights.
"They're just going to let me die," said patient Peter McWilliams, a New York Times best-selling author who uses medical marijuana to alleviate side effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome and the nausea associated with his AIDS medications. "My doctor and I have tried every [other medication,] and we made this very clear in the documents filed with the court," he said. "Medical marijuana was the only alternative."
McWilliams physician, Dr. Daniel Bowers, an AIDS specialist at Pacific Oaks Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said that his patient's viral load has skyrocketed from undetectable to dangerously high levels since a federal magistrate barred McWilliams from smoking marijuana. Bowers said that McWilliams risks permanent damage to his immune system if his levels are not reduced.
A judge ordered McWilliams to stop smoking marijuana as a condition of his bail release last fall after a federal grand jury charged him and eight others with conspiracy to cultivate marijuana for commercial sale. This week's ruling by U.S. District Judge George King upholds that ban despite McWilliams' worsening health.
"We conclude that imposing the aforesaid conditions of bond does not violate any of the defendant's constitutional rights," Judge King ruled. "We do not mean to express indifference to the defendant's situation, [but] we are not empowered to grant the defendant what amounts to a license to violate federal law," he said. King made no mention of California's law legalizing marijuana for medical use. McWilliams is a California resident.
King also refused McWilliams' request that he be placed in a federal program that supplies medical marijuana to a handful of patients with serious diseases. McWilliams said he will appeal the ruling. McWilliams' criminal trial on marijuana charges is scheduled to begin on September 7, 1999.