US federal prosecutors essentially threatened to kill California medical cannabis grower and researcher Todd McCormick and his publisher Peter McWilliams if they didn’t plead guilty to marijuana charges in connection with a July 1997 raid on McCormick’s home.
In an attempt to gather damaging evidence against the pair, they also threatened to cage Renee Boje, an artist that was decorating McCormick’s home, for 10 years to life in a federal prison staffed by guards that are infamous for raping and abusing female inmates. Prosecutors were desperate for convictions, as the case would set a precedent in California, where voters approved legal medical marijuana in a state-wide ballot.
Peter McWilliams, who uses marijuana to treat AIDS, was held for a month in the summer of 1998, during which time he was not only denied access to medical pot for the entire stay, but also to pharmaceutical medications nine times. It was a very real, implied death threat, that led his mother to put up her home as collateral on McWilliams’ $250,000 bail. “The federal prosecutor personally called my mother to tell her that if I was found with even a trace of medical marijuana, her house would be taken away,” reported McWilliams.
McCormick, who has used marijuana to treat cancer since the age of 12 under the recommendations of numerous physicians, was also released in 1997 on $500,000 bail, and then rearrested because of a positive urine test for THC in the spring of 1998, after a judge ruled that McCormick couldn’t use his legally prescribed Marinol, which likely caused the positive result. In jail he was strip searched in pools of feces and urine. “They are trying to kill me,” said McCormick. “They want me to get cancer again and die.”
After repeated tortures and threats against their lives, McCormick and McWilliams cut deals and pled guilty last December to marijuana charges. McWilliams is still out on bail, but faces up to five years in federal prison with no option for appeal. McCormick ? who remains behind bars until his day in court ? may appeal whatever sentence he receives. Renee Boje is in Canada, fighting extradition back to the US, and speaking at conferences across the country.