The Los Angeles Times

Judge Denies AIDS Patient's Request for Marijuana

(No author listed on L.A. Times web site)

March 10, 1999

While sympathetic to his medical plight, a federal judge has denied Peter McWilliams' request for permission to smoke pot while awaiting trial on marijuana conspiracy charges.

McWilliams, a writer and publisher who has AIDS, says that he needs marijuana to keep from vomiting the powerful antiviral drugs he must take each day.

Last year, a federal magistrate forbade him to smoke pot as a condition of his bail, an order that McWilliams calls a virtual death decree.

In a written opinion released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge George H. King refused to alter McWilliams' bail conditions. He said he is not empowered to grant "what amounts to a license to violate federal law."

Despite California voters' passage of Proposition 215 legalizing the medical use of marijuana, federal law still makes possession and ingestion of marijuana a crime.

"We do not mean to express indifference to defendant's situation," King wrote, adding that he hopes McWilliams and his physician can come up with another treatment program within the law.

McWilliams' lawyer, Thomas Ballanco, said he plans to appeal King's ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McWilliams, who lives in Laurel Canyon, was indicted in July on nine counts of conspiring to grow, possess and distribute marijuana. He is a friend and supporter of medical marijuana advocate Todd McCormick, who is awaiting trial on charges of growing 4,000 marijuana plants at a rented Bel-Air home.