This week marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Peter McWilliams, best-selling author, medical marijuana patient and passionate advocate of freedom. Peter repeatedly challenged laws that prohibited his use of marijuana to control nausea and manage his struggle with AIDS and cancer. In the end, federal prosecutors proved too powerful and uncompassionate. Confined to his home and denied access to the medicine that had helped him, Peter was unable to control the vomiting caused by his AIDS drugs, and too weak to withstand it, lost his life.
Three years ago, as a keynote speaker at the Libertarian Party National Convention, Peter entertained attendees with his brilliant wit but also delivered a serious message. In a speech broadcast on C-Span, he called medical marijuana prohibition "an outrage within an outrage within an outrage." The first outrage, he said, to cheers from the audience, is the war on drugs. The second outrage is the prohibition of the least dangerous recreationally used drug, marijuana. And the third is that patients who need marijuana medically should be denied it, even arrested and sent to prison.
It was less than three weeks later that federal prosecutors had Peter arrested and thrown in jail. A $250,000 bail amount kept him sitting in jail for some time, and only a visit to court, during which Peter was vomiting constantly, got Peter access to his legal AIDS medications. This attack by the government on the health and safety of an AIDS patient drove home the reality of the drug war to those of us who labor to stop it; federal prosecutors almost seemed to want our friend to die for flaunting their marijuana laws, or not to care if that is what happened. If that was not their intention, it may as well have been, as was eventually proved.
Peter was able to live at home for most of the next two years as his trial, and the trial of his compatriot, Todd McCormick, slowly progressed through the court. He distributed extensive information about his case, his causes and many other interesting topics to an extensive following on the Internet. But in the end, Peter was not allowed to even mention medical marijuana at this trial, plea bargaining last November to an unappealable five-year sentence, which he hoped he would be able to spend under house arrest while he wrote his books. His last book, an exposé of the DEA, will never be read; the near final draft was destroyed in a fire, sending Peter into shock and precipitating his death. It is very likely by all reports that Peter would be living today if he had been allowed to continue to use marijuana.
The November Coalition and the Libertarian Party of California are holding a vigil in Peter's honor, tomorrow, Saturday, June 16th. Persons in the Los Angeles area can participate by meeting at 2:00pm on the front lawn of the West Los Angeles Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd. The vigil will continue there until 4:00pm, and will be followed by a 1/3 mile march to Westwood Memorial Gardens at 1218 Glendon. E-mail [email protected] for further information.
Please visit Peter's very extensive web sites and see the legacy he left in books and much more:
Peter's untimely death came less than a week after he was featured by John Stossel on the ABC news program 20/20. You can read what John Stossel, Barbara Walters and Peter himself had to say on the following two 20/20 web pages: