Peter McWilliams by Julia

peter_mcwilliams1987“I realized that marijuana IS a medicine—a legitimate medicine, a remarkable medicine, able to treat a multitude of ills.”

Peter McWilliams knew these words to be true, back in 1998. Years later, these timeless words, bursting with hope, still speak to many medical cannabis patients. In the early 90’s Peter wrote and self-published a book that sizzled on the New York Times best-seller list. You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought showed how being a negaholic can have a stunningly bad effect on one’s health, mental and physical.

In 1996 Peter discovered that he had been diagnosed with AIDS and non-hodgkins Lymphoma: “Beware the ides of March!” he joked. He himself would not afford the luxury of a negative thought. Even when suffering, Peter still harbored good humor. He confessed, “I went in for a growth on my neck. It resembled the animated pimple from hell in those Clearasil commercials designed to drive teenagers into fits of embarrassed discretionary spending. It turned out to be a tumor.”

Peter placed his trust in the hands of conventional doctors. For a while, cancer and AIDS were lessening. But, nasty nausea was increasing. The nausea swimming inside Peter’s stomach was an ocean of crashing waves: tossing, turning, not a moment’s peace in sight. Soon, this vibrant and vivacious New York Times best-selling author was slumped over a toilet, heaving up all of his food and life-saving medicine. Peter considered himself a journalist, and when it came to health, he was no slacker. He had known about the healing properties of cannabis all the way back in 1978, when Good Housekeeping, of all publications—published an article about how tetrahydrocannabinol, as known as THC, could treat a bunch of diseases including cancer. Peter was greatly influenced by the book, Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine whose authors were Harvard’s own Dr. Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar, a lecturer in law at Harvard Medical School. Peter hadn’t taken a toke since his college days. He wondered if this gentle herb could combat the powerfully evil nausea. That’s when the miracle happened. Peter tried medical cannabis. It worked. Boy, did it ever! Peter was able to regain his strength, he was able to eat, he was able to keep food down. He was able to write again, he even churned out another best-seller! He gained weight, the level of AIDS in his system was reduced to zero. He wanted the world to know how awesome medical cannabis is so he began writing A Question of Compassion: An AIDS-Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana. This brilliant picture book was splattered with sparkling imagery of animals, nature wrapping itself inside the powerful message that cannabis cures. Unfortunately the United States Government wasn’t too thrilled with Peter. He had become an ardent activist against the War on Drugs. Appearing in front of a spellbound crowd at the 1998 Libertarian National Convention, ironically on the 4th of July—a day Americans are supposedly celebrating freedom, Peter rebuked the current drug laws, and the politicians who backed prohibition. The DEA visited Peter and seized his computer and current writings. His “baby.” The DEA discovered that Peter’s book, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do popping up in the homes of many raided Californians. Peter was helping to grow plants for patients. Unfortunately the DEA just saw him as some drug kingpin lording over his flashy Bel-Air mansion. Peter was jailed for thirty days and was commanded never to use cannabis again. If he disobeyed, his mother and brother would lose their homes, the condition of Peter being free on bail. Peter worried he might not make it to trial. He launched a huge media campaign, and urged his supporters to politely write Judge George H. King in his defense. Time was not Peter’s friend. Without cannabis, Peter’s AIDS and cancer struck back with a vengeance.

On Flag Day, June 14, 2000, this wonderful writer, who had written gentle verses such as, “While alive, live,” died, alone, sprawled in his bathtub. Some say he died choking on his own vomit. Some say it was a heart condition. Many say he was murdered by the United States Government. Many of Peter’s books are still in print, among them, they include How to Survive the Loss of a Love, with co-authors Melba Colgrove, Ph.D, and Harold Bloomfield, M.D., How to Heal Depression, with Harold Bloomfield, M.D., You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought and Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do. These titles are available at Shirts and hoodies bearing his face, and his words of wisdom are available as well. A Question of Compassion, Peter’s final, unfinished masterpiece is now available in video form. This video was made with the “little guy” in mind: the patient who never gets recognized. Sprinkled throughout the informative, moving piece are photos of patients, among them some highly recognizable activists in the marijuana movement. The goal of the video was to focus on the patients first. Patients/activists Tyler Markwart, Winston Matthews. Washington’s own outspoken Steve Sarich. Current pot prisoner Chris Williams. Rick Simpson, considered by many to be a healer and a hero. Canadian seed businessman Marc Emery. Sensible BC’s Dana Larsen, who wrote about Peter back in the day. Paul Stanford, founder of Portland’s Hempstalk, who dedicated a road in Peter’s name. Marco Renda, patient, activist and owner of Treating Yourself magazine and the Treating Yourself Expo in Toronto. Every single one of them are big fans of Peter. Among the living, images of spirited souls no longer with us: Washington’s own Ric Smith, Canada’s angel, Michelle Rainey, and the ever-smiling Steve Collett. The flurry of faces you will see the most of in this video are those patients, low-key folk who seldom receive any media attention. The video can be seen here:

Peter sought sweet relief, and he found it in magical cannabis. They took away his medicine. The AIDS/Cancer took away his body. But nothing can ever take away his words of wisdom, and the lasting footprints left on our hearts and in our lives. “The willingness opens the doors to knowledge, direction, and achievement. Be willing to know, be willing to do, be willing to create. Be willing to follow your Dream.” ~ Peter McWilliams for more information please visit:


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