Pubdate: Fri, 27 Sep 2002
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Peter Rowe
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had unearthed 
marijuana in Steven McWilliams' yard. I'm shocked. Finding weed on 
McWilliams is like finding a Slurpee in a 7-Eleven.

"Everyone in the world knows that Steve McWilliams grows marijuana in his 
front yard," said Juliana Humphrey, a lawyer who chairs the city of San 
Diego's Medical Marijuana Task Force.

But it's not just this modest pot patch that has enraged Washington. 
McWilliams had to be punished because he - recklessly, openly - insists on 
obeying the law. California law, yes, but Prop. 215 is the law nonetheless.

That didn't stop U.S. Attorney Carol Lam from threatening McWilliams with 
"federal criminal prosecution, regardless of the provisions of Proposition 
215 or any other state law or regulation."

Neither did it stop federal agents from raiding McWilliams' home on 
Tuesday, destroying the marijuana plants he - recklessly, openly - tended 
for a handful of patients.

This administration doesn't coddle law-abiders.

Odd couple Marijuana can be good medicine, as Ann Shanahan-Walsh will tell 
you. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, the La Mesa resident thought she 
was being killed by her cure.

When chemotherapy made her blood count fall, her fever rise and her stomach 
heave, she turned to cancer survivors for advice. A lawyer who had 
weathered a bout of testicular cancer knew what she needed.

"Get some marijuana, Ann," he said.

Why not? Prop. 215 had been on the books since 1996. But the initiative is 
silent on a key question: Where do patients buy marijuana?

To answer that and other questions, the city of San Diego formed its 
Medical Marijuana/Cannabis Task Force in May 2001. Shanahan-Walsh was 
appointed to this body. So was McWilliams, a longtime advocate of 
decriminalizing pot. Quickly, they became the task force's Odd Couple.

"She doesn't like me," he said.

"He's got that right," she replied.

Shanahan-Walsh thinks pot should be reserved for serious illnesses.

McWilliams would prescribe it for stress.

Shanahan-Walsh argues that marijuana should be consumed discreetly, like 
other medicines.

McWilliams is a public toker.

Shanahan-Walsh, a media consultant, works within the system.

McWilliams, an activist, prefers confrontation to committee work. This 
summer, he resigned from the task force.

But even his critics say that McWilliams' operation helps patients. "When 
you are diagnosed with cancer," Shanahan-Walsh said, "they want you to 
start treatment right away. You don't have time to grow your own marijuana."

Air Support

The feds disagree - I presume, as Lam did not respond to my request for an 
interview. But even before the agents ripped up his plants Tuesday, 
McWilliams was under surveillance. Sparing no expense, his foes called in 
air support.

"Helicopters are flying low overhead today," McWilliams said Monday. "It's 
very threatening."

It's also absurd. McWilliams' operation met the task force's suggested 
guidelines. "If the law is going to have any meaning," Humphrey said, 
"people should know what it means."

And if Washington has a beef with California, U.S. Attorney General John 
Ashcroft should sue state Attorney General Bill Lockyer. To harass someone 
who follows state law and City Hall's lead is dopey.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager