Memorial To Be Held For Medical Marijuana Pioneer

July 16, 2005

, 10 News (San Diego)

Medical marijuana activists plan to hold a memorial at City Hall Tuesday for Steve McWilliams, who killed himself on his 51st birthday Monday.

'He was a pioneer in the movement,' Claudia Little, a retired nurse from Point Loma who is helping to organize the local service, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. 'He was the one who brought the issue of the implementation of Proposition 215 to the forefront.'

Activists in at least 15 other cities are planning events for Tuesday to coincide with the San Diego event. In Washington D.C., supporters are planning a candlelight vigil encircling the Capitol, the Union-Tribune reported.

McWilliams urged the San Diego City Council to address Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that for gave some Californians the legal right to use marijuana to ease various ailments.

'There were clearly others, but Steve McWilliams was the driving force' behind those guidelines, said Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who plans to ask that the City Council adjourn Monday in his memory.

Federal agents have never recognized the state law, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that federal law trumps Proposition 215.

In 2002, McWilliams drew the attention of federal agents by smoking pot and giving away small bags of the stuff on the steps of City Hall to protest a raid on a medical marijuana cooperative in Santa Cruz County.

The next year, McWilliams was convicted of illegal growing and got a six-month federal prison term. The sentence was stayed pending appeal, but he was barred from using marijuana in the interim.

When he died, McWilliams was in pain from an earlier motorcycle accident.

In a note left at his side, McWilliams said the discomfort was too much for him and he hoped his suicide would help change the government's position on medical marijuana, Barbara MacKenzie, McWilliams' longtime partner, told the Union-Tribune.

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