McWilliams: modern-day martyr (2/23/01)

Iím all about ending the war on drugs. I think itís ridiculous. I think most people, when faced with the evidence and relevant arguments, will agree. This column, however, is not going to present you with any of that information, because I would have to get my lazy butt in gear and actually do the research that would allow me to present you with the evidence and relevant arguments.

Instead, this column was spawned by a conversation I was having the other day with another like-minded individual who is for the legalization of drugs. We marveled together for a while about how smart we both were, and then I asked her why she thought, if it was such an obvious solution, that people had not effectively demonstrated to end said drug war. She responded that she thought it was probably just because it was a hard cause to get a lot of emotion worked up for, that you never heard of anyone putting themselves in danger or anything for this kind of cause. In fact, she went on to say, she thought the whole current state of social protest was pretty sad. The government didnít persecute people any more; there were no martyrs for modern causes.

I smacked her around for a good five minutes. Of course there are modern martyrs. Of course there are people who are still harassed by the powers that be. Heck, just this last summer, the death of Peter McWilliams forever marked him as a modern victim of his own beliefs.

Donít know Peter McWilliams? You should. He was basically a professional agitator. He owned his own publishing company, through which he published probably his best work: Ainít Nobodyís Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country. The book protests, well, the existence of consensual crimes - drug use, prostitution, anti-sodomy laws, gambling, etc. He became an expert speaker on the subject, asked by various law schools, colleges, TV shows and others to come and give his perspective. Not the best position to be in to escape government scrutiny, especially when you suffer from AIDS and cancer and smoke marijuana to alleviate your nausea.

Recently, McWilliamsí publishing company published a book on the subject of how to grow your own medical marijuana. Because the author had used some of his advance to grow his own marijuana, McWilliams was arrested by the Feds and treated as a drug kingpin - although medical marijuana is legal in McWilliamsí home state of California, the federal government does not recognize the right of states to adopt their own drug legislation.

McWilliams was eventually released on bail, part of the conditions for said bail being that he would submit to a weekly urine test to prove he had not used marijuana. While he was using a legal alternative to marijuana in an attempt to control his vomiting, it only worked for him about a third of the time. It is possible, despite all of this, that McWilliams might have continued to use marijuana - if his 70-odd year-old mother hadnít put up her house as bond. He abstained by the rules simply because he didnít want his mother to lose her house.

Peter McWilliams died on June 14, 2000. He asphyxiated on his own vomit, unable to use the drug which had allowed him to control his nausea.

McWilliams was not allowed by the federal judge to present his defense, which would have referred to the California initiative. He was not even permitted to tell the jury he smoked the marijuana for medical purposes.

Yes, our government still kills people. Yes, there are some causes that people still die for, whether they intend to or not. Donít think that because the wheels of government seem to grind exceeding slow and boring that there is not still injustice and governmental persecution. Find your cause.

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