Judge Bars Medical Need, Prop. 215 as Basis for Defense in Marijuana Trial

From Associated Press

November 6, 1999

     A federal judge ruled Friday that two medical marijuana activists cannot use necessity as a defense in their upcoming drug trial.
     They also cannot refer to their medical conditions, the medical uses of marijuana or California's Proposition 215, which allowed the personal use of marijuana for medical purposes, said U.S. District Judge George King.
     Todd McCormick, who has bone cancer, and Peter McWilliams, who has AIDS and cancer in remission, are accused of growing and distributing marijuana.
     They were arrested after federal officials found more than 6,000 plants growing in a Bel-Air mansion and three other leased locations in Los Angeles County.
     McWilliams, a self-help publisher, is accused of financing the operation. McCormick and others are accused of growing the pot and trying to sell it to the Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers Club, which has dispensed the drug since Californians voted in 1996 to legalize it for medical use.
     They are scheduled to stand trial Nov. 16.
     McWilliams said he was devastated by the decision. "It's frustrating to be in a state where voters voted that I can have this medication," he said. "I am needlessly dying at the prime of my career."
     A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office refused to comment beyond the judge's ruling.
     McWilliams said he has admitted growing marijuana for his own use. He says he can only keep down his AIDS medication by smoking marijuana and that his health has suffered since his arrest in July 1998.
     King's ruling disallowed a defense based on medical necessity because it "is not available as a matter of law," since Congress has ruled marijuana has no medical merit. Proposition 215 recognizes some medical benefits, but U.S. officials say state laws do not apply to federal offenses.