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Cultivation Defendant and Cancer Patient Todd McCormick Denied Use of Prescribed Marijuana or Marinol®; Incarcerated Illegally, Pending Trial


March-April 1998

On March 16, U.S. Magistrate Judge James McMahon denied Todd McCormick's request to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes while awaiting trial ("Defendant Denied Request to Smoke Pot Pending Trial," Orange County Register, March 17, 1998).

Under California law, McCormick has a prescription for marijuana to relieve pain associated with cancer and uneven bodily structures. He has had cancer since early youth and his body never grew symmetrically. McCormick was arrested on July 29, 1997 on Federal charges of cultivating 4,000 marijuana plants in a rented Bel-Air mansion. McCormick faces a mandatory minimum ten year sentence, a possible life sentence, and a $4 million dollar fine.

"I am outraged," McCormick said after the ruling. "I am not requesting to do anything that is not legal in the state of California." McMahon also refused to lower McCormick's $500,000 bail, which was posted by actor Woody Harrelson. Attorney David Michael is representing McCormick who says he was cultivating the marijuana to give to cancer sufferers like himself to ease their pain (see "California Medical Marijuana Activist Charged With Marijuana Cultivation," NewsBriefs, August 1997).

On April 3, 1998, the government asked Judge McMahon to lock up McCormick for violating bail conditions after he assertedly failed three drug tests in the past month. McCormick said his failed tests for THC were due to residue of the prescription medication Marinol®, not marijuana, in his urine. Unprepared for the April 3 hearing, the government asked for McCormick's imprisonment until the federal prosecutors were ready for a hearing scheduled for April 22 before Judge McMahon. McCormick was jailed. However, on April 14, U.S. District Judge George H. King released McCormick saying there was no federal law authorizing his imprisonment (Associated Press, "Medical Pot Activist Returned to Jail After Failing Drug Tests," San Jose Mercury News, April 4, 1998; Linda Deutsch, "Pot Activist Released From Prison," Sacramento Bee, April 14, 1998; Press Release, "Federal Judge Rules, and Federal Prosecutors Admits, McCormick's 12-Day Incarceration Was Illegal," Colorado Hemp Initiative Project, April 14, 1998).

"Is there a case law I am not aware of under which we can hold Mr. McCormick until his hearing?" Judge King asked Federal Prosecutor Fernando Aenlle-Rocha. "Not that I am aware of," Aenlle-Rocha answered.

"How could this man watch Todd led away in tears two weeks ago when Assistant United States Attorney Aenlle-Rocha knew all along that what the government was doing was illegal?" asked Peter McWilliams, McCormick's publisher. "Apparently people can be locked up just because the government asks for it. That's how dangerous to all of our liberties the federal war on California medical marijuana patients has become."

"It's so good to be out," said McCormick. "In custody, I was placed in a room with urine and human feces on the floor, moved to a cell with no pillow, and finally transferred to the psychiatric ward. I was tortured for twelve days illegally by the federal government. They admit it. I hope people are made aware of this."

Todd McCormick - (213) 650-4906, E-mail: <>. Todd McCormick Defense Fund - c/o David M. Michael, Client Trust Account, Bank of America account #16644 11541, Pier 5 North, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, Tel: (415) 986-5591.

Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, Assistant United States Attorney, Narcotics Section, US Attorney for the Central District of California, Los Angeles - Tel: (213) 894-2481.