Prescription for Pot

25-year-old Todd McCormick had a prescription for marijuana, but that didn't stop Ohio state troopers from arresting him in July 1995 when they found some in his car after a traffic stop. However, the judge would've let him smoke it in jail.

McCormick has a prescription from a doctor in the Netherlands to use marijuana for chronic pain resulting from ten childhood bouts with cancer. He is trying to start a group in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, that would give marijuana to the seriously ill. McCormick's effort is reminiscent of activists who smuggled in FDA-unapproved drugs to combat AIDS. The AIDS drug buyers' clubs eventually caused the FDA to loosen its restrictions.

Unable to raise his $150,000 bail, McCormick argued before a judge that he required marijuana for medical purposes. Since the age of 2, McCormick has undergone extensive treatment for cancer of the spine, skull, right ear and left hip, as well as a tumor between his heart and lung. He first began smoking marijuana at age ten to combat nausea and dizziness associated with radiation therapy.

Judge Anthony Gretick ruled that McCormick could smoke marijuana in jail if a local doctor agreed with the medical necessity. The issue will not be tested, however, because McCormick was able to make bail when it was lowered to $20,000.

"There are alternative therapies as good if not better than smoking marijuana for all of the medical conditions for which there have been requests for medicinal marijuana, including chronic pain," said Rayford Kytle, a spokesman for the Public Health Service, which in the U.S. controls all legal access to marijuana for medical purposes. The question is, why does Kytle get to make that decision for someone else?

If convicted, McCormick faces up to thirty years in prison.

Source: Sept. 18, 1995, New York Times News Service article, "Prohibition on marijuana prescriptions will be tested."