One of America's most well-known drug war hostages walked out of federal prison in Southern California on December 10. Todd McCormick had served nearly four years for his role in an early post-Proposition 215 medical marijuana grow operation in Los Angeles. Other players in that operation included libertarian author Peter McWilliams, who financed the grow and who died choking on his own vomit in 2000 after a federal judge denied him the right to use medical marijuana while out on bail. Also involved was Renee Boje, who fled to Canada rather than face ten years in prison for tending the plants. Boje remains in Canada, where she fights for political refugee status.
McCormick and McWilliams pled guilty in November 1999 after the trial judge denied them the right to use a medical marijuana defense against federal cultivation and trafficking conspiracy charges. Six months later, McWilliams was dead, Boje was safe in Canada, and McCormick was serving his sentence.
While McCormick, who is afflicted with severe medical conditions eased by medical marijuana and who has authored a book on growing medi-pot, is out of prison, he is not quite a free man just yet. He currently resides in a Los Angeles area halfway house, where he must stay until his sentence expires on May 19. In the meantime, he is beginning work on a pair of projects, he told supporters in an e-mail message. One is creating AHEMP -- Artists Helping End Marijuana Prohibition -- a project he began before losing his freedom -- while the other is a book based on his recent experiences, working title "How to Navigate Federal Prison."
McCormick's return to the Southern California medical marijuana scene is likely to add to old tensions over the case that were recently reignited when Scott Imler, head of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, was sentenced to probation for his federal medical marijuana offense. Imler received probation, in part because prosecutors credited him with testifying against McCormick and McWilliams in their case. Imler has long been an advocate of a strict, by-the-numbers approach to medical marijuana and was critical of the McCormick-McWilliams camp's mixing of the hemp, marijuana and medical marijuana issues and the large size (4,000 plants) of the garden busted at McWilliams' Bel Air property. Imler has also noted that he and other LACRC members were forced to testify against McCormick and McWilliams under federal subpoenas granting them limited immunity against self-incrimination. McCormick has indicated he will address the topic in the near future.
McCormick added that he is out of touch after his stint in the land of the living dead. Anyone who wants to renew contact can reach him at [email protected].