ACLU Letter to then-DEA Administrator, Thomas Constantine (pictured)

December 23, 1997

Administrator Thomas A. Constantine

Drug Enforcement Administration; Washington, D.C. 20537

Dear Administrator Constantine:

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California has been contacted by Mr. Peter McWilliams concerning the execution of a search warrant by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at two homes owned by Mr. McWilliams, as well as his place of business in Los Angeles.

Mr. McWilliams is an author and publisher who has openly criticized the DEA.  Recently, he took out a two-page advertisement in Variety highly critical of the agency.  As you probably know, Mr. McWilliams has plans to publish a book by Todd McCormick, a cancer patient arrested for growing marijuana plants.  He is also writing his own book, A Question of Compassion: An AIDS Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana.

On December 17, agents searched the premises pursuant to a sealed warrant, the contents of which were not made known to Mr. McWilliams.  The warrant purportedly allowed DEA access to papers, computer files, address lists, and other written material owned or controlled by Mr. McWilliams. Agents seized, among other things,  Mr. McWilliams' computer and his two external back-up drives.  In addition, agents went through research documents and other papers in Mr. McWilliams' home, and confiscated eight bags full of paper. The DEA provided no particularized accounting to Mr. McWilliams of the papers taken.

Moreover, an agent searching Mr. McWilliams' publishing business, Prelude Press, reportedly told the manager that the DEA would take over the company in the next six months. By all appearances, the search warrant and the conduct of the search may represent a broad attempt by the DEA to retaliate against Mr. McWilliams for exercising his First Amendment rights to criticize a government agency and to suppress his efforts to write and publish about the medical use of marijuana.  The DEA took all the material related to the two books on this topic on which Mr. McWilliams was actively working.  It is well known that the DEA opposes the use of the medical marijuana, and came out forcefully against the Compassionate Use Initiative that passed recently in California.

We are gravely concerned about the possible constitutional and other legal violations that may have occurred here and intend to study the issue closely.

I would like to hear from you on these issues.


Elizabeth Schroeder

Associate Director

UCLA of Southern California

cc: Special Agent Robert Bender

Chief Counsel Cynthia Ryan