Renee Boje faces a mandatory 10 years to life for medical marijuana

Story and photo by Reverand Damuzi

Renee Boje faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison for doing art at a friend's home, but she would rather turn herself in than see friends die in prison.

Boje was hired by Todd McCormick to do some free lance art work for a book he was writing called How to Grow Medical Marijuana. She was arrested in July of 1997 during a bust at Todd McCormick's medical marijuana research facility in California, and continues her fight to avoid extradition to the US on charges of cultivation, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and possession. Todd McCormick grew marijuana for research purposes and to treat a rare form of bone marrow cancer that he has had since childhood. Also charged in conjunction with the raid was McCormick's publisher, Peter McWilliams, who lived with AIDS and who wrote about alternative medicines and libertarian issues before his recent death.

Renee Boje's case has become a political headache for US anti-pot forces. The DEA raid on McCormick's operation was a message from the US federal government that they would not tolerate Proposition 215, voted into law by Californian voters to make medical marijuana legal in their state. Nor would they tolerate "freedom of the press," which writer Peter McWilliams so enthusiastically exercised.

At the time of her arrest, police knew that Boje was not a 'player' in the operation; they dropped all charges and released her. By the time it became apparent that they would need her to testify against McCormick, she was in Canada. They reinstated charges against her to leverage her cooperation. Despite a possible ten years to life in prison, Boje refused to cut a deal by testifying.

McCormick and McWilliams eventually plead guilty to charges of cultivation in early December 1999. McCormick is currently serving a mandatory minimum 5-year sentence, while awaiting an answer for his application to appeal to the Supreme Court. McWilliams sentencing hearing was scheduled August 15, 2000. In November of last year, Boje offered to turn herself over to American authorities if charges were dropped against Peter McWilliams.

"He could die if he spends time in jail," said Boje. "I would be betraying everything I believe in if I did not do whatever I could to save Peter."

Meanwhile, others arrested during the raid have cut deals with the US attorney's office in return for promises to testify against Boje, whose case has become a high-profile headache for US drug-war promoters.

"All I know is that they were in danger. They had 10-year mandatory minimums hanging over their heads," Boje whispered. "I don't hold it against them because I intend to win my case, and I don't want to see them in jail."

On December 15 and 21, 1999, Justice Michael Catliff considered the final arguments in Renee Boje's extradition hearing. The prosecution called a police expert, Detective Constable Lowes, to testify that the presence of 4,116 plants at McCormick's medical marijuana mansion meant that Boje must have been trafficking. Lowes testified that 4,116 plants would produce 938,428 joints if the joints weighed two grams each.

Lowes also testified that it was human nature to profit from that amount of plants, and therefore Boje must have been intending to profit from them, despite the fact that it wasn't even her 'grow operation'. John Conroy pointed out that the amount of plants was in keeping with the kind of genetic research being done at McCormick's residence.

On February 9, 2000 Renee heard Judge Catliff's decision. The courtroom and hallway was crowded with supporters who were stunned when Judge Catliff ruled that Renee Boje be surrendered on all counts, including possession, production, conspiracy to possess, conspiracy to produce and conspiracy to traffic in marijuana. Some wept openly as the Bailiff escorted Boje from the witness stand to a jail cell. Boje's lawyer, John Conroy, appealed the ruling immediately and had Boje out on bail later that day.

If Boje wins her case, it will set a precedent for other US citizens who are being persecuted for medical marijuana and risk spending decades in US prisons to come to Canada and seek safety!

The next step is for Boje's case to proceed to the Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan, before it goes on to the Appeal Court of British Columbia. It is expected that Anne McLellan will render her decision in mid-July, 2000.

For more info about how to help Renee win her case, visit the "Take Action" section of her website, at:


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