Peter McWilliams

Peter McWilliams

Peter McWilliams, 1949 – 2000

This blog is named after Peter McWilliams’ amazing book, Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country. The premise of the book is simple:

This book is about a single idea—consenting adults should not be put in jail unless they physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Peter called laws that violate this principle consensual crimes. He preferred that term to the more common phrase “victimless crime,” which he felt had been given too many meanings — everything from people claiming that it’s a victimless crime to steal from big corporations, to lawyers pointing out that some crimes technically have no victims, to moral scolds eager to proclaim us all victims — whereas “consensual crimes” focuses on the key issue, which is the consent of all involved.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do went on to elaborate on this idea for hundreds of pages. We could probably quibble with some of the details, but his main point was completely correct: Consensual crimes should not be crimes at all.

In 1996, Peter McWilliams was diagnosed with AIDS and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The medicine he used to treat these diseases made him extremely nauseated, a condition he was able to calm by smoking marijuana. During this time he became an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana. Possibly as a response to that advocacy, the DEA arrested McWilliams and charged him with various crimes in connection with a medical marijuana operation. Having been forbidden by the judge from mentioning his medical condition to a jury, he was forced to plead guilty and hope for leniency.

And then, eleven years ago today, while out on $250,000 bond for sentencing, and refraining from using marijuana as a condition of the bond secured by his mother’s house, he apparently vomited and choked to death.

A memorial site for Peter McWilliams includes his essay “Joy is Good”:

In March 1996, I opened the door to death and stared the Grim Reaper in the face. There was a pause. Then he suddenly smiled and said, “Enjoy yourself! It’s later than you think.”

William F. Buckley eulogized Peter McWilliams as “a wry, mythogenic guy, humorous, affectionate, articulate, shrewd, sassy.”

It’s hard to imagine a more ironic death for such a generous spirit, a man who wanted so much for people to be free. It all sounds like some bad made-for-TV movie. Some part of me thinks that Peter would probably appreciate the irony.

I’m not as generous a spirit as Peter was. This post is a reminder that Peter was essentially murdered by a bunch of drug warriors, and that the kinds of people who did that to him should not be forgotten. Nor forgiven.

About Mark:
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.
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  1. JdL
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I saw red when the government thugs murdered Peter McWilliams. I had long been a fan of his, and what they did was SO unjust, so petty, and so murderous, I really wanted to pick up a gun and try to settle the score. I’m still just as angry today, as the guilty are still walking free after having killed a man whose boots they weren’t fit to lick. They may never be brought to justice, but at least those who know and care can shine a spotlight on their evil machinations. Thanks for doing so!

  2. Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s possible we will one day bring the War on Drugs to a close, but I’m pretty sure that most of the drug warriors will get away without ever being punished. Probably the best we could hope for is some sort of truth-and-reconciliation thing, naming the worst of the drug warriors and documenting what they did.