Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430</p>
Medical marijuana activist and former talk show host Montel Williams was cited for possession of a marijuana pipe at the International Airport in Milwaukee yesterday. TSA employees found the pipe as he passed through a security checkpoint. He paid a $484 citation and was released.
"I think most Americans would agree that airport security should focus its limited resources on looking for bombs, not marijuana," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Montel Williams and the tens of thousands of other Americans who use marijuana for medical reasons shouldn't be treated as criminals."
Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses medical marijuana to relieve chronic nerve pain, was honored in 2009 by the Drug Policy Alliance for his groundbreaking journalism and outspoken advocacy on behalf of medical marijuana patients and providers. He received The Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Journalism at the Drug Policy Alliance's International Drug Policy Reform Conference.
Since going public with about his medical marijuana use in late 2003, Williams has tirelessly campaigned for changes in state and federal laws to expand access to marijuana as a medicine. In addition to writing Climbing Higher, his 2004 autobiography that detailed his struggle with MS and the therapeutic effects of marijuana, Williams has hosted TV shows on the topic of medical marijuana, authored Op-Ed pieces in major newspapers, and used his platform as a public figure to press legislators across the country to enact new drug policies based on compassion, reason and science. In particular, Williams traveled to state capitals in Albany, NY and Trenton, NJ, as well as Washington, D.C., to urge elected officials to pass medical marijuana legislation.
Fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana for medical use. Polls show Americans support medical marijuana by large margins (consistently more than 70%), and a near majority support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana like alcohol. The police made almost 860,000 arrests for marijuana in 2009 (the latest year data is available); more than 88% of those arrests were for possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. No other set of laws is both enforced so widely and harshly, and yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the populace.
"With so many Americans fed up with their tax dollars being wasted on arresting people for marijuana, it's time for Congress to take action," said Piper. "Changing federal law to protect medical marijuana patients like Montel Williams would be a good first step."