Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. Since then, the TV talk-show host has tried a variety of drugs -- everything from morphine to Vicodin -- to ease the constant pain he feels in his lower extremities.
The drug that has proved most effective for Williams is marijuana, which is why he paid a visit to Capitol Hill recently on behalf of the Marijuana Policy Project.
Williams was on the Hill to try to persuade lawmakers to pass bills pertaining to medicinal marijuana, such as the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, which allows patients who have recommendations from their doctors in California and nine other states where the medical form of the drug is legal, to grow marijuana without fear of arrest. This was Williams' third visit to Capitol Hill. So far, he has met with a total of eight lawmakers. He lives in Manhattan.
Williams sat down with The Hill's Betsy Rothstein on May 4 at a Marijuana Policy Project reception at the Washington Court Hotel. He wore a sleek black suit, black shirt and black tie and had his share of bling -- a diamond watch, a shiny black bracelet and diamond and gold earrings in both earlobes.
What do you hope to accomplish here?
Montel Williams: Hopefully these bills will be passed. I think it's an exercise in futility, but we'll continue to do exercises in futility until they get passed. We have to stop looking at this through propagandized eyes.
There has been a 70-year propagandized effort to taint something that is a viable medication.
How do lawmakers react to you?
Every meeting I walk out of, someone tells me I have changed their mind. I'll continue to peck away at this one lawmaker at a time.
How are you faring with your condition?
I'm in pain 24 hours a day. I have MS, and MS doesn't have me. I work at it very hard every day.
Does the marijuana help alleviate some of the pain?
Absolutely, where other pain medications don't. I don't get a euphoric feeling from it. I would have to consume a lot for that to happen.
How much marijuana do you smoke a day?
About one gram.
Where do you get your marijuana?
I don't like to discuss that.
Sylvia Browne, the psychic, is a regular guest on your show. What does she say will happen to you and to your efforts to legalize medicinal marijuana?
She was just on the show yesterday. Sylvia feels that my efforts are going to bring about a cure in the next five years.
Do you think she's right?
This year alone she has been accurate on a whole bunch of things.
Have any lawmakers refused to meet with you?
Not yet, I haven't had any one who has refused.
Did you know that some refused to meet with Irv Rosenfeld [one of seven Americans who are allowed by law to use federally provided marijuana]?
I laugh because I find it so asinine. How would a member of Congress refuse to meet with a man they provided medicine to? It's ludicrous. Every member of Congress should meet with him and say, "Hey, how is the medication working?"
So you use your stardom to secure meetings with members.
Absolutely, I have. Some of them, their staffers watch me. Their schedulers watch me. If I could be considered legitimate on my show, I should be considered legitimate on this.
So what do you think of President Bush?
I believe strongly that he is 100 percent convinced that every plan he puts forth will work. I don't think anyone is perfect. He speaks his mind. I remember distinctly being on the streets of New York on Sept. 23, 24, 25 [of 2001]. There wasn't an American alive who wasn't begging for some retribution. Do I now have my own opinion about what should happen? Heck, yeah. But he is trying his damnedest, and I appreciate his leadership.
Did you vote for him?
The Constitution gives me the right to not say who I voted for.
Where is the Bush administration on medicinal marijuana?
They are against it. I would like to sit down with him [Bush] and talk with him about medicinal marijuana. He is against it because he believes the garbage about how it doesn't work. I'll bet he does not know that the federal government distributes marijuana.