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Author Peter McWilliams Arrested in Todd McCormick Medical Marijuana Cultivation Case


July-August 1998

On July 23, Federal authorities indicted and arrested bestselling author Peter McWilliams, 48, in connection with Todd McCormick's marijuana cultivation operation in California (David Rosenzweig, "Medical Marijuana Advocates Accused of Cultivating For Sale," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1998; Associated Press, "Medical marijuana activist, others indicted," Contra Costa Times, July 24, 1998).

McWilliams, was charged with conspiracy to grow marijuana, possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, and distributing it. McWilliams is being held on $250,000 bail. McWilliams insists that he is innocent. His attorney, Harland Braun, said the charges are just part of a government campaign to discredit medical marijuana advocates. McWilliams has publicly acknowledged using medical marijuana to relieve symptoms of AIDS and cancer.

McCormick, 27, was also named in the new indictment. These charges supersede previous charges pending against McCormick. He was arrested last year on charges of cultivating thousands of marijuana plants in a rented Bel-Air mansion. McCormick, who has suffered from cancer since early childhood, says he was growing the plants to test different strains for their medical efficacy and to provide the drug to medical marijuana clubs in California (see "California Medical Marijuana Activist Charged With Marijuana Cultivation," NewsBriefs, August 1997).

The indictment says McWilliams provided McCormick and others with money and credit to buy equipment to grow marijuana. It says that McWilliams said he wanted to become the "Bill Gates of medical marijuana."

In a letter from jail, McWilliams responded to the 41-page indictment. "I paid McCormick to write a book, not to grow marijuana," he wrote. "I am a vocal and occasionally effective proponent of medical marijuana and that is why I am in jail" (Peter McWilliams, letter, July 28, 1998).

Responding to McWilliams' claim that he was not receiving his AIDS and cancer medication in jail, on July 31, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich said he will ensure that McWilliams receives the appropriate medicine. The judge turned down his request to lower his bail (Associated Press, "Judge Says Jailed Medical Marijuana Advocate Must Receive Medication," August 2, 1998).

McWilliams owns Prelude Press in Los Angeles and is the author of bestselling books such as Life 101 and Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do. He was working on a book about medical marijuana, when agents searched his home and seized his computer and files in December 1997, shortly after he published a full page ad in Variety magazine criticizing the DEA (see "DEA Raids Home of Medical Marijuana Writer," NewsBriefs, January 1998).

A fund-raising effort has been launched to raise bail for McWilliams. For more information, contact: Steve C. Markoff, A-MARK, 100 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90401, Tel: (310) 587-1470.