The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office suggested Wednesday it would
dismiss marijuana possession charges for an AIDS patient using the drug
under a doctor's care.
Dismissing the misdemeanor charge for Peter McWilliams, an Allen Park native now living in California, would open the door to others in Wayne County who received recommendations to use the drug from their doctors, advocates and some legal experts suggested.
The misdemeanor charge has a possible one-year jail sentence. McWilliams was caught with marijuana at Detroit Metropolitan Airport while on a trip to the area in December.
"There may not be any intent to break the law from an out-of-state individual," said Richard Padzieski, chief of operations, who said his office would wait to receive letters from McWilliams' doctors before making a final decision.
In California, state law allows doctors to recommend marijuana, although they do not prescribe it.
Tina Brooks Green, chief judge of the 34th District Court in Romulus, set a July 18 trial date Thursday.
"Hopefully, we can dismiss your case before trial," said Green. Added Assistant Prosecutor Maria Petito, who is handling the case: "We are all hopeful this won't go to trial."
McWilliams, a 47-year-old Los Angeles writer, was caught with seven marijuana cigarettes. He was on a "Lazarus tour," visiting friends and family because he was fearful he might not live out the year.
But since then, McWilliams' prognosis has improved, thanks to an experimental three-drug combination that suppresses the AIDS virus and his AIDS-related cancer is in remission.
"All these drugs cause nausea and marijuana is the only thing that counters that," McWilliams said.
McWilliams could have accepted probation, but chose to fight the charge to help those suffering from arthritis, multiple sclerosis or AIDS who wish to use the drug for medicinal reasons.
"I've been given a torch to help others like me that are suffering to get the medical treatment they need," said McWilliams.
Renee Emry, 37, of Ann Arbor, was convicted last year of felony manufacture of marijuana for growing the drug. She still uses it daily to relieve the pain of her multiple sclerosis, she said, but doesn't grow it. "I can call Dr. Kevorkian and have me kill myself and that's socially acceptable, but I can't fire up a marijuana joint to ease my pain," said Emry, who unsuccessfully ran for Ann Arbor City Council in 1995. "It's wrong what they're doing to (McWilliams) and me."
Michigan prohibits the use of medicinal marijuana and unlike nine other states, including Illinois and Wisconsin, does not allow doctors to prescribe it. In 1979, the state Legislature passed Public Act 125, allowing the medicinal use of marijuana, but the provisions subsequently expired in 1987, making its use illegal.
©Copyright 1997, The Detroit News