Peter McWilliams must be looking down from heaven with a smile of satisfaction but also with a question: "What took so long?"
McWilliams was the libertarian author of the 1996 book, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society, and a patient who used medical marijuana.
He died because the government arrested him and denied him access to his medicine.
The late William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote about McWilliams in June 2000, shortly after McWilliams died:
A federal judge in California (George King) would decide in a few weeks how long a sentence to hand down, and whether to send McWilliams to prison or let him serve his sentence at home.Today the Obama Administration struck a blow for life, liberty, and property when it announced that it will no longer be a federal law-enforcement priority to prosecute sick people who use medicinal marijuana to treat their illnesses, or the caregivers who provide them with the medicine.
What was his offense? He collaborated in growing marijuana plants.
What was his defense? Well, the judge wouldn't allow him to plead his defense to the jury. If given a chance, the defense would have argued that under Proposition 215, passed into California constitutional law in 1996, infirm Californians who got medical relief from marijuana were permitted to use it. The judge also forbade any mention that McWilliams suffered from AIDS and cancer, and got relief from the marijuana.
What was he doing when he died? Vomiting. The vomiting hit him while in his bathtub, and he choked to death. Was there nothing he might have done to still the impulse to vomit? Yes, he could have taken marijuana; but the judge's bail terms forbade him to do so, and he submitted to weekly urine tests to confirm that he was living up to the terms of his bail.
Carrie Johnson reports in the Washington Post:
The Obama administration delivered new guidance on medical marijuana to federal prosecutors Monday, signaling a broad policy shift that will mean fewer crackdowns against dispensaries and the people who use them.The Administration's decision strikes a blow for life because there are people who may die without access to medicinal marijuana.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. instructed government lawyers that in 14 states where medical marijuana use is legal, federal prosecutors should focus only on cases involving higher level drug traffickers or people who use the state laws as a cover story.
"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Holder said. "This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws."
It strikes a blow for liberty because people should be free to choose the sorts of treatments they use for their illnesses.
It strikes a blow for property because people should be able to do anything on their private property they wish, as long as they do not violate the rights of other people, without the interference of government.
Or, as Peter McWilliams put it, paraphrasing that blues anthem of the 1920s: "Ain't nobody's business if you do."
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