Nationwide Memorials Grieving Suicide of MedPot Patient Who Faced Prison

July 15, 2005
Nationwide --- On Tuesday, July 19, medical marijuana patients, doctors and
advocates will be memorializing the life of a well-known patient - activist
who committed suicide by demanding Congress take immediate action to avert
such tragedies.

On Monday, July 11, San Diego medical marijuana patient and advocate, Steve
McWilliams, committed suicide while awaiting federal sentencing. Steve
McWilliams organized and led a public handout in September 2002 of medical
marijuana to patients at San Diego’s City Hall in protest of the federal
raids on the WAMM collective in Santa Cruz. A few weeks later, his home was
raided and he was arrested on charges relating to the cultivation of 25
marijuana plants grown for the small medical marijuana collective he
operated, Shelter from the Storm. Shelter from the Storm – a collective of
some half-dozen patients including a 73-year-old woman suffering from
leukemia, a 70-year old man with prostate cancer, and a terminal transplant
patient – had been officially recognized by the City of San Diego as a legal
patients’ collective in compliance with California’s Compassionate Use Act.
This is one of the smallest known cases to be criminally prosecuted by the
federal government in its crackdown on medical marijuana patients in
California.

Steve pled guilty with the right to appeal because federal law prohibits him
from presenting a valid medical marijuana defense in district court. Without
the plea agreement, Steve faced up to 40 years in prison. He was sentenced
to six months and released pending appeal but denied access to medical
marijuana. In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal
authorities may raid and prosecute medical marijuana patients, but
questioned the wisdom of doing so. This ruling destroyed Steve’s hopes of
winning on appeal, and according to friends, he became despondent, and
convinced he would not survive prison. He was experiencing increasing pain,
and was hospitalized as late as last week. He was taking powerful
pharmaceuticals including opiates, anti-nausea, anti-migraine and a variety
of other ‘prescribed’ drugs in far higher amounts than when he was able to
medicate with marijuana. Evidently, these were the substances he used to
commit suicide.

“Steve McWilliams was an incredibly kind, compassionate, intelligent and
wise man, as well as a committed activist,” said his friend David Bronner.
In Steve’s honor, Americans for Safe Access, a national patients’ advocacy
group, is spearheading memorial protests in Washington DC, San Diego, CA and
another 15 cities across the nation. The memorials will be on Tuesday, July
19, 2005, to remember Steve McWilliams and demand Congress take action to
change federal law.

The Washington DC protest will be a memorial procession with powerful
visuals, starting 12 noon at Health and Human Services and circling around
Capitol Hill. July 19 is also the day that the Department of Health and
Human Services is due to take final action on the medical marijuana Data
Quality petition filed by Americans for Safe Access (ASA). The ASA petition
seeks correction of information disseminated by HHS which denies that
marijuana has recognized medical benefits. The ASA petition alleges that
such information violates the Data Quality standards because the Department
has failed to consider numerous valid scientific studies demonstrating the
medical benefits of marijuana. Additionally, ASA is a member of the
Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, which has a current rescheduling
petition they want an answer to this August.

What: Memorials to honor Steve McWilliams – medical marijuana patient,
caregiver & activist
When: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 at 12pm (noon)
Where: DC : Start on the corner of Independence and 4th St., SW., at the
Department of Health and Human Services building. San Diego: Civic Center
Concourse Plaza, 202 C. Street, 3rd and B Street, Downtown San Diego. For
information on other cities, please contact Rebecca at 818-632-2222.
Who: A national coalition of 12,000 patients, doctors and advocates,
Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on
medical marijuana. To learn more, see www.SafeAccessNow.org.
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