The Los Angeles Times

Letter to the Editor

March 16, 1999

McWilliams Ruling

Re: "Judge Denies AIDS Patient's Request for Marijuana," March 10: The decision of U.S. District Judge George H. King to refuse to allow Peter McWilliams the medical use of marijuana is unconscionable.

King says he cannot allow, to a possibly dying man, "what amounts to a license to violate federal law." Yet the judge himself should know two things: 1) Necessity, as in life and death, is a common-law reason to violate many kinds of laws; and 2) the drug laws he is talking about blatantly and egregiously violate the 10th Amendment, not to mention every person's natural right to use medicine.

A judge who cannot find some reason or pretext to grant the compassionate use of marijuana to McWilliams is therefore a man without conscience or honesty: Not just a bad judge, but a bad man.


Los Angeles

After reading the above letter in the paper, I sent the letter below to the Los Angeles Times. Alas, the editors chose not to publish it, but, as this is my web page, I can set the record straight here. I have deep appreciation for Mr. Ross for writing his letter.

Good Judge--Bad Law

The Times was kind enough to published a letter on my behalf on March 15, 1999. While I appreciate the support indicated by the writer of this letter, I wish to disagree on one point: I do not consider U.S. District Judge George H. King (left)  either a “bad judge” or a “bad man.”

Indeed, when the lawyers made oral argument before the judge over whether I should receive medical marijuana, Judge King said he was “struggling hard and mightily” with his decision, and I believe he was. “Help me struggle,” he implored the lawyers, “What is the alternative?”

There, unfortunately, is no alternative. On one hand, no other medication but medical marijuana keeps down my anti-AIDS medication, and I am dying as a result. The medical results are conclusive. On the other hand, marijuana is illegal at the federal level for all purposes, period.

“We are all sort of on the spot,” Judge King summed it up succinctly.

In his ruling, Judge King did not question my need for medical marijuana to save my life. He did not rule on that issue at all. His ruling was that he did not have the power as a federal judge to override the clear will of Congress--and when it comes to Congress, that will is very clear, indeed. (“The Marijuana Is Not Medicine Act of 1998” should give you an idea.)

As a Libertarian, I admire Judge King’s judicial restraint. I believe in the rule of law. I have no desire to live in a country in which any federal judge can rewrite any law any way any time he or she pleases.

That Judge King is sympathetic to my plight was indicated by a footnote he was kind and compassionate enough to add:

“Government council has represented in open court that this matter has been the subject of much discussion and consideration within the Department of Justice. Nothing in this order should be taken to dissuade the parties from engaging in further informal discussions with the view toward reaching some appropriate accommodation.”

Hardly the words of a bad judge or a bad man.


Peter McWilliams