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Here Are All The People Who Have Died From A Marijuana Overdose

Shortly after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, the Clinton administration began drug raids on dispensaries and cultivators, even though they were complying with federal law. One of those raids was on the Los Angeles marijuana grow… McCormick used pot to treat the pain associated with a cancer treatment that had fused two of his vertebrae. McWilliams had been diagnosed with AIDS, then with non-Hodgkins lymphoma brought on by AIDS. Smoking marijuana eased his nausea, which helped him keep take his medication both to manage his AIDS the chemotherapy for his lymphoma. McWilliams was a self-help author, and had become an outspoken civil liberties activist. With respect to pot, he also made no attempt to hide the fact that while it was medicinal, it also made him feel good. The high took his mind off the fact that he was battling two diseases. McWilliams and McCormick were raided in 1997, by DEA agents -- as McWilliams later described it, "guns drawn, commando-style." Because they were tried on federal charges, the jury wasn't allowed to hear that the two men had broken no California laws. McWilliams' doctors were also prohibited from testifying about his marijuana use. Because of those restrictions, McWilliams pleaded guilty and hoped for leniency. But after his arrest, McWilliams' mother put up her house as collateral to post his bail. One condition of McWilliams' bail was that he refrain from smoking marijuana. Prosecutors told McWilliams and his mother that if he failed a drug test or was caught with pot she'd lose her house. So McWilliams abstained from using the drug. Consequently, he got sicker. McWilliams was found dead in his apartment on June 14, 2000. Overcome with nausea, he had thrown up, then choked and aspirated on his own vomit. The conservative icon and legalization advocate William F. Buckley eulogized McWilliams in his syndicated column. Peter McWilliams is dead. Age? Fifty. Profession? Author, poet, publisher . . . 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 . . . Peter was a wry, mythogenic guy, humorous, affectionate, articulate, shrewd, sassy . . . Imagine such a spirit ending its life at 50, just because they wouldn't let him have a toke. We have to console ourselves with the comment of the two prosecutors. They said they were "saddened" by Peter McWilliams' death. Many of us are--by his death and the causes of it . . . The struggle against a fanatical imposition of federal laws on marijuana will continue, as also on the question whether federal laws can stifle state initiatives. Those who believe the marijuana laws are insanely misdirected have a martyr. Sources: Peter McWilliams, "The DEA Wishes Me a Nice Day," Liberty, May, 1998; William F. Buckley, Jr., "Peter McWilliams, R.I.P." Universal Press Syndicate, June 21, 2000; R.W. Bradford, "The Life and Death of Peter McWilliams," Liberty, August 2000; "Los Angeles Drug Case Bars Medical Marijuana Defense," The New York Times, November 7, 1999.

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