Newshawk: Ty Matthews
Pubdate: Fri, 9 Jun 2000
Source: ABC News 20/20
Author: John Stossel email@example.com
Note: Close Caption data proofread, corrected and formatted by Ty Matthews
Related: Peter's websites: http://www.drugsense.org/mcwilliams/
Also: 20/20 has taken down it's page on John Stossel's Give Me a Break
on Peter, but the video is now online at:
20/20 GIVE ME A BREAK TRANSCRIPT
Barbara Walters: You may have heard that marijuana can help cancer and AIDS
patients feel better. Well, the federal government doesn't accept that, and
to that John, you say, give me a break.
John Stossel: I do, Barbara, because the federal government's so eager to
fight the war on drugs, sometimes it thumbs its nose at the wishes of the
John Stossel: Peter McWilliams is an author who has AIDS. We met him three
years ago while doing another story. Some drugs he takes to combat the
disease make him nauseous, so, like many others in California, McWilliams
smoked marijuana to reduce the nausea. He assumed it was legal because of
Prop 215 Ad Spot: Vote YES on 215.
John Stossel: Oh, California did legalize medical marijuana after this ad
campaign laid out the arguments.
Prop 215 Ad Spot: When my husband, JJ, was dying of cancer, I felt
helpless, so I broke the law and got him marijuana. It worked.
John Stossel: Since California and five other states had legalized medical
marijuana, you'd think sick people in those states could legally smoke pot,
but it seems that in America today, if the marijuana police want to get
you, they will.
John Stossel: In California, federal prosecutors went after doctors who
prescribed marijuana, then they shut down the buyers club set up to sell
marijuana to those who are sick. This left lots of sick people desperate.
Contact: Basically they're going to be out on the streets. They're going
to be on the turfs trying to buy weed.
John Stossel: McWilliams was not popular with authorities because he openly
smoked and advocated legalizing the drug. A few years ago federal
authorities discovered a friend of his was growing these marijuana
plants. They then raided McWilliams' house.
Peter McWilliams: I assume that they were looking for [a] drug king pin
something or another. Isn't that what the DEA is all about? The major
John Stossel: Later, federal authorities arrested McWilliams, saying he'd
given his friend money to grow marijuana. McWilliams claimed the money was
for research for this book.
John Stossel: I don't know who's right, but what seems unfair is that in
court, McWilliams was not even allowed to tell his side of the story
because authorities took him to federal court. This meant McWilliams would
not be allowed to mention his medical condition or the fact that California
legalized medical marijuana. He couldn't make the most basic arguments in
his own defense. Faced with that, he gave up.
Peter McWilliams: I was going to be put in jail for ten years, period. I
would die in a federal facility in far less than ten years.
John Stossel: So he plead guilty to a lesser charge and today awaits
sentencing. He's out of prison on the condition he not smoke marijuana,
but it was the marijuana that kept him from vomiting up his medication.
Peter McWilliams: I spent almost all my time in bed.
John Stossel: Only by staying in bed for hours, he says, can he hold off
the nausea and hold his medications down.
Peter McWilliams: It is exhausting and yet it is keeping me alive.
John Stossel: Isn't something off here? A man is not allowed to say the
truth at his own trial? I can understand that the federal drug police don't
agree with what some states have decided to do about medical marijuana, but
does that give them the right to just end-run those laws and lock people
up? Give me a break!
Barbara Walters: One does wonder about that. What's the point of a state
passing laws. But when is Peter McWilliams going to be sentenced?
John Stossel: Later this summer. Because of the plea bargain he won't get
ten years, but he may get five, which just seems wrong, I--. This war on
drugs often does more harm than the drugs themselves.
Barbara Walters: So it seems sometimes. We'll be right back.
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake