|MS patient John Ray Wilson, left, and a supporter
In a move that could be huge for the medical marijuana movement, a New Jersey judge reversed course today, allowing a multiple sclerosis patient on trial for growing 17 marijuana plants to testify about his medical condition, Brian Thompson of NBC New York reports.
Although Judge Robert Reed had earlier ruled defendant John Ray Wilson couldn’t present a defense based on medical necessity, Wilson was allowed to mention his MS after multiple conferences among lawyers and the judge.
“I told them [the arresting officers]I was not a drug dealer and I was using the marijuana for my MS,” Wilson was allowed to tell the jury.
“I think it carried weight, even though it was one sentence,” said Chris Goldstein of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey.
No follow up on Wilson’s MS was allowed.
He faces up to 20 years in prison on the “drug manufacturing” charge.
|N.J. State Senator Scutari: “It seems cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins”
If Wilson is convicted, two state senators, Nicholas Scutari and Ray Lesniak, want Governor Jon Corzine to pardon him
before Corzine leaves office January 19.
Calling the prosecution of Wilson a “severe, inappropriate discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law,” Scutari and Lesniak urged the governor to pardon the defendant.
Scutari and Lesniak further called upon the New Jersey Assembly to quickly move legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana for New Jerseyans with chronic and terminal illnesses.
“It seems cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins,” Scutari said. “Moreover, it is a complete waste of taxpayer money having to house and treat an MS patient in a jail at the public’s expense.
“Specifically, in the case of John Ray Wilson, the State is taking a fiscally irresponsible hard-line approach against a man who’s simply seeking what little relief could be found from the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis,” Scutari said. “Governor Corzine should step in immediately and end this perversion of criminal drug statutes in the Garden State.”
|N.J. State Senator Lesniak: “It is legally inappropriate, humanly cruel and fiscally wasteful to impose any kind of prison term for Mr. Wilson”
Lesniak echoed his colleague. “Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth less than the paper they’re printed on,” Lesniak said. “New Jersey’s tough criminal drug laws were never intended to be used against patients suffering from chronic and terminal medical conditions. The prosecutors and presiding judge have set up a scenario where Mr. Wilson is no different than a common street thug in the eyes of the law.”
In August of 2008, a training flyover by a New Jersey National Guard helicopter spotted 17 marijuana plants in the backyard of John Ray Wilson’s Franklin Township home.
Wilson, now 36 years old, was diagnosed with MS in 2002 and at the time, had no health insurance coverage or means to pay for the pharmaceutical drugs needed to keep the symptoms of his disease in check. According to his lawyer, Wilson turned to natural substances to relieve his suffering, including bee-sting therapy and marijuana purchased illegally.
Unable to afford purchasing expensive pharmaceutical drugs to ease his pain, Wilson attempted to grow marijuana for his own personal, medical use in the backyard of his home. Now he’s being charged with multiple counts of possession and manufacturing of illegal drugs, the most severe of which – first degree maintaining or operating a drug-production facility – carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and disqualifies him for the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders.
State prosecutors have offered a plea agreement of four years’ imprisonment, but the Union County lawmakers called on Governor Corzine to pardon Wilson of the drug-production facility charge in order to make him eligible to participate in PTI and avoid a prison sentence.
“The only way we’re going see less of these cases come before the court is if the ‘New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’ becomes the law of the land,” said Senator Lesniak. “This has been an issue that has taken years to resolve in New Jersey, and legislative approval and enactment into law are long past overdue.
“It’s time that the Assembly post this bill for a vote, so we can focus our attention on putting real criminals behind bars, and not piling on the suffering for terminal patients simply seeking a little relief from the symptoms of their diseases,” Lesniak said.
“For the men and women in New Jersey who have no where else to turn to effectively manage their debilitating illnesses, the ‘Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’ would give them an alternative, and protect them from overly harsh and unnecessary drug crime prosecution,” said Senator Scutari.
“If we had just passed this legislation years ago, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion about John Ray Wilson, and he’d be able to get access to drugs to manage the pain and spasticity of MS without fear of persecution,” Scutari said. “On behalf of John Ray Wilson and the thousands of State residents suffering from long-term, chronic and terminal illnesses, I call on the Assembly to send the medical marijuana legislation to the Governor to finally be signed into law.”
The “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was approved by the Senate in February by a vote of 22-16, and was advanced out of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in June by a vote of 8-1, with 2 abstentions.
It is currently pending before the full Assembly before going to Governor Corzine to be signed into law.