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United States v. Todd McCormick, Peter McWilliams, and Renee Boje (1997-2007, Los Angeles)

posted Jan 31, 2013, 2:13 AM by The Editor   [ updated Jun 6, 2013, 3:36 AM ]
Todd McCormick, who has suffered bone cancer and radiation treatments since he was a child, author Peter McWilliams ("Life 101", "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do"), and freelance artist Renee Boje were all arrested in 1997 at a Bel Air mansion that had been converted into a cannabis research lab by McCormick and McWilliams.

McCormick and McWilliams claimed they were doing clinical research testing strains of pot for effectiveness in treating the symptoms of diseases including AIDS, cancer, and chronic pain. They believed they were protected by California's Proposition 215, which was approved by California voters in 1996, and allows medical marijuana patients to cultivation marijuana for medical use. But a federal judge ruled out any mention of medical necessity in the case, so jurors couldn't be told that McWilliams and McCormick were seriously ill.

McCormick and fellow defendant Peter McWilliams pled guilty in November 1999 after the trial judge denied them the right to use a medical marijuana defense against federal cultivation and trafficking conspiracy charges. Childhood cancer survivor Todd McCormick served nearly four years of a five-year sentence in federal prison for his post-Proposition 215 medical cannabis grow. Peter McWilliams, who had AIDS and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, died on June 14, 2000, after he was denied use of marijuana as an herbal appetite stimulant by U.S. District Judge George King. McCormick was freed on December 10, 2003 from Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institute.

Co-defendant Renee Boje fled the U.S. in 1998, at the advice of her lawyer, and fought extradition from Canada due to the mandatory ten-year minimum sentence she faced if convicted. In September 2006, after international outcry and celebrity involvement in the cause, Boje received one year's probation without supervision and was permitted to remain in Canada.

Last updated January 31, 2013 by Lex Libreman for WEED WARS: United States v. Marijuana.

Bail Rises For Man Held In Pot Bust; Prosecutors Argue Suspect May Flee

by Lee Condon, Daily News Staff Writer
August 2, 1997

Bail was increased to $500,000 on Friday for Todd McCormick, the Bel-Air man whose arrest for the cultivation of 4,116 marijuana plants could test the state's new marijuana-as-medicine law.

Among those identified in court as potential donors to McCormick's bail fund was actor Brett Harrelson, whose brother Woody Harrelson has publicly fought the outlawing of hemp cultivation.

"Todd has a lot of friends,'' said Richard Cowan, a friend of McCormick.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter rejected a request by prosecutors to hold McCormick at the Metropolitan Detention Center without bail, but agreed that $100,000 set earlier was too low.

McCormick's attorney said the 27-year-old will have difficulty raising the $500,000 bail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Spertus had argued that McCormick has access to money needed to flee the country, has connections to people in the Netherlands, where he recently lived, and has not turned over his passport because it is missing.

"He could flee to the Netherlands and become a martyr for the cause of the legalization of marijuana,'' Spertus said.

McCormick, a longtime advocate for the therapeutic use of marijuana, was arrested Wednesday after authorities found 4,116 plants growing in the Bel-Air mansion he was renting less than a mile from former President Reagan's estate.

His attorney, Alan Isaacman, said McCormick has used the drug since boyhood to cope with the pain from cancer. Sheriff's deputies estimate each of the 4,116 plants is worth $5,000, for a total street value of $22 million.

Isaacman told the judge that McCormick was growing the plants because he was experimenting with various strains of the plant to determine which would be the most effective for medical users.

``There's no indication that they were being sold to anyone in the community,'' Isaacman said.

Isaacman said his client likely would have made the $100,000 bail with help from a friend, Peter McWilliams, who would have had to put up his house collateral. However, he was not certain if McCormick's friends can raise enough for the $500,000 bail, meaning his client may have to stay in jail at least until an Aug. 13 preliminary hearing.

Hatter revealed during the hearing that one of three people who indicated they may post bail for McCormick was Brett Harrelson. Harrelson and his brother, Woody, recently appeared in the film ``The People vs. Larry Flynt.''

Isaacman gained notoriety as Flynt's longtime lawyer in a variety of pornography cases involving Hustler magazine. Isaacman was portrayed in the movie by actor Edward Norton.