Peter McWilliams Martyred
 by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor

Peter McWilliams, libertarian author of Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society, died at the age of 50 on June 14, 2000. He had AIDS and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, but did not directly die of those diseases. He was required to take many pills, but he vomited constantly, rendering pills useless. To keep the pills in his stomach, he had been using medical marijuana to ease the nausea caused by his medical treatments. He was then was arrested and not allowed access to cannabis. He died at his home in Los Angeles, the cause of death recorded as asphyxiation. It appears that he was alone, vomited, and was unable, in his weakened state, to clear his airway.

McWilliams' book argued against criminalizing actions that have no victims, and he fought a long battle over medical marijuana. Had he been able to control his nausea with cannabis, he may have lived to continue this struggle on behalf of all victims of prohibition. The US government's war on drugs has thus claimed another victim. Peter McWilliams, apparently, was killed by the state. McWilliams is a martyr to the war on drugs and to the tyranny of prohibition.

Besides Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do, McWilliams also wrote How to Survive the Loss of a Love and The Personal Computer Book. He was also the author of collections of poetry and photography.

According to the eulogy by J.D. Tuccille in The Freedom Network Newsletter of June 16, on December 17, 1997, federal drug and tax agents raided McWilliams' home and offices, confiscating manuscripts and equipment and effectively shutting down his publishing business.

The ostensible reason for the raid was a book advance paid to Todd McCormick, an author and fellow marijuana activist who rented a home where he wrote and grew marijuana with the money. "This was to be the beginning of a legal and emotional gauntlet that ended only with McWilliams' own life."

According to a press release of June 15, by the California Libertarian Party, McWilliams was arrested in 1998 and charged with conspiracy to sell marijuana plants that he had been growing to supply cooperatives that serve other medical marijuana patients in California. McWilliams was forced to plead guilty after the federal judge presiding over the case refused to allow any mention of Proposition 215, the 1996 California ballot initiative that supposedly legalized medical marijuana in that State. He plea-bargained for a sentence of five years -- which he hoped to serve under house arrest, rather than in prison.

In an email message sent on February 2, 2000, McWilliams wrote, "In November 1999, the federal prosecutors successfully obtained an order prohibiting me from mentioning to the jury that I have AIDS, that marijuana is medicine, that the federal government supplies eight patients with medical marijuana each month, or that California has a law permitting the very act that I was accused of violating."

Is there any clearer demonstration that constitutional provisions for justice in America are now null and void? If the prosecutor can dictate the defense, trials are a sham.

At the time of his death, McWilliams was awaiting sentencing on the marijuana charges. His health was failing after Judge George King ordered McWilliams not to use medical marijuana. He was allowed to post bail and remain at home, but only it he stopped smoking marijuana. Tested to enforce compliance, McWilliams was unable to hold down his AIDS medication. As a result, his viral count soared and he spent long hours in bed, fighting nausea.

"The War on Drugs has sadly produced another casualty," said California Libertarian Party chair Mark Hinkle. "Had Peter been allowed to take medical marijuana, he could have kept his nausea under control and probably prevented his death. Americans should be outraged that the government allowed Peter to die, and Judge King should be held accountable for his decision -- which amounted to a death sentence for Peter."

The death of McWilliams demonstrates that the excuse given by government for drug prohibition, the health and welfare of the people, is a lie. If government agents were concerned with health, they would not prohibit medical marijuana. Government is not a kind servant, but a cruel master.

McWilliams' book Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do is thick (815 pages) but highly readable, sprinkled with quotations and amusing drawings. He wrote with humor and used common-sense arguments in favor of live and let live. As a prominent medical marijuana legalization advocate and author, he became a high- profile target for federal officials who refused to recognize California's Prop. 215.

According to the Liberty Wire press release of June 16 by libertarian candidate for the presidential nomination, Harry Browne, McWilliams had said, "It is winning the war of ideas -- through fact, logic, persuasion, and, yes, humor -- that brings about lasting change... I support the high road of truth, facts, debate, and education, even if I'm not able to walk that road much longer, and even if lies, deception, repression, and ignorance are the direct cause of my death."

The state can murder freedom fighters, but it cannot silence them. McWilliams will live on in his writing and as a martyr to the cause of liberty everywhere.

-- Fred Foldvary