Todd McCormick

Cancer Patient, Researcher -- and Criminal?

Todd McCormick, prisoner of the dryg war
Presently serving 5 years for medical marijuana; a virtual death sentence

Tuesday, July 29, 1997

A large number of Los Angeles sheriff's deputies swarmed into the ten room (not fifty) hillside home of medical marijuana activist Todd McCormick, where McCormick was growing medical cannabis in some of the rooms. McCormick is well-known as a medical marijuana user, having had cancer ten times as a child. His cancer is in remission, but he suffers from chronic pain as the result of having the vertebrae in his neck fused in childhood surgery. He has been a very outspoken and defiant advocate of patients' rights to access to medical marijuana. McCormick openly stated his intention to continue growing medical marijuana and to provide it to other patients.

Todd was arraigned Wednesday, July 30, at 2:00 PM in federal court in Los Angeles. The Judge set the bond at $100,000; rejecting prosecutor's call for detention without bond. McCormick prohibited from using medical marijuana. His release was expected by Friday before the Feds appealed the bond.

(McCormick's house was completely looted by the police. The television, hi-fi, and his computer were all taken. Of course, all of the plants were cut down, destroying invaluable genetic material that could have been used to relieve the pain and suffering of people with AIDS, cancer, and other disorders, who are dependent on ineffective and/or unaffordable pharmaceuticals.



A memo from
Peter McWilliams

Todd McCormick was the first medical marijuana arrest in California since the passage of Proposition 215. You may be wondering what sort of person he is -- an opportunistic drug dealer or a compassionate patient. Here's my take on Todd.

Todd and I met ten months ago while I was researching a book on medical marijuana. (AIDS and cancer in March 1996 convinced me of marijuana's medicinal effectiveness and turned medical marijuana into my central political cause.) Todd and I have become close friends, and I probably know him better than anyone else in the press. I want you to know the real Todd McCormick, one very different from the one the carefully orchestrated bust and the spin the government has been rehearsing for weeks is sure to take.

Todd McCormick had cancer nine times before the age of ten. The top five vertebrae of his neck are fused. He has one hip the size of the 25-year-old man he is, another hip the size of a ten-year-old -- the age he was when bone-cancer radiation stopped that hip from growing. Even if his cancer never returns, the fused vertebrae cut his life expectancy in half. This Saturday he confided in me his bone cancer may have returned. He was to see my oncologist this week for a check-up.

Todd's house is the ugliest structure in Bel Air. It was built to resemble a castle; a castle made out of stucco. Neauvo midevel. The house is more a research facility than a marijuana factory. Todd used the house as an ad hoc university of medical marijuana education -- cultivation but one of many subjects discussed. It quickly became the cultural center of Southern California's medical marijuana movement.

Even the government couldn't miss Todd's house. He had dozens of varieties growing everywhere; inside, outside. He loves the marijuana plant and, like George Washington before him, wanted to see it growing everywhere. Everyday all day there were new sick people or caregivers for sick people and Todd would enthusiastically answer all questions. We (us old farts) all warned him to be more careful -- more discreet -- in who he allowed to see what some consider "evidence," but Todd's heart was too big to listen. All someone had to say was that they were sick -- or knew someone who was sick -- and Todd opened right up.

Todd credits marijuana with his life, so he is highly sympathetic to those in medical need. Todd's mother started giving him medical marijuana for the nausea of chemotherapy and radiation when Todd was nine. Todd feels he never would have survived that bout with cancer -- his eighth -- without marijuana. Kids on his ward were dying of malnutrition brought on by nausea, yet Todd retained a healthy appetite and -- as importantly, he thinks -- a healthy attitude. His mother couldn't tell the other mothers in the children's cancer ward: if word got out she was giving a nine-year-old marijuana they would have taken Todd from her.

Todd's life is his work, his work being the education about and propagation of an herb he personally knows eases suffering and saves lives. Money never crosses his mind. To call Todd (as I'm certain they will; I haven't heard a single press report yet) a major drug dealer is particularly absurd in Todd's case: Todd was buying marijuana from others for his own medicinal use as late as last week. Not that Todd hasn't harvested some marijuana at his house. It's just that Todd is hopeless with marijuana: he gives it away to sick people the second he gets any. He is simply not to be trusted.

Todd is a good person on an important mission -- a mission I, too, have adopted as my own. The blow against Todd McCormick is a blow against all sick people as well as a slap in the face to the will of the People of California. Todd's arrest is almost certainly politically motivated. Whether it was the rightholding the hard line on drugs or the left hysterically overreacting to the right's overreaction, they have chosen a young man with a compassionate heart and a broken body and put him in jail. To what end? In addition to jailing him -- and holding him at an absurd $1,000,000 bail -- they may at a stroke wipe out Todd's years of research into the effects of different strains of medical marijuana on different illnesses. Some of that genetic material is irreplaceable. If it goes, it will be a permanent loss to medicine -- a great medicine, dwarfed by precisely sixty years of insane federal prohibition (the Marihuana Stamp Act of 1937).