Pot Charges Dropped Against N.J. Medical Marijuana Patient


Photo: Tim Larsen
David Barnes argues for medical marijuana with Gov. Chris Christie during a town hall meeting in Flemington, N.J., September 8, 2010.

​A New Jersey prosecutor has decided to drop a marijuana possession charge against a man who argued he uses cannabis to treat a seizure disorder.

Police in Readington, N.J., found a small amount of marijuana on David Barnes in February 2010, reports The Associated Press. His case became a rallying point for local medical marijuana advocates.
Although the New Jersey Legislature last year legalized marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions, implementation has been delayed as the administration of Republican Gov. Chris Christie labors over regulatory details.

If the program had already been up and running, according to AP, “probably no one would have considered the 50-year-old former internal auditor a criminal.”

Photo: NORML
There are similar cases around the state, according to Chris Goldstein, Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

​Barnes suffers from cyclic vomiting syndrome, getting persistent, painful vomiting attacks that last up to three days. He regularly throws up so much that he loses up to 10 percent of his body weight.
A doctor recommended back in the 1990s that he use marijuana to soothe the symptoms, Barnes said. While cannabis doesn’t prevent the attacks, it makes them milder, according to Barnes.
His was the type of case that persuaded New Jersey legislators in January 2010 to make the state the 14th the legalize marijuana for medicinal uses in certain situations.
A month after outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine signed the medical marijuana law, Barnes, a resident of Tewksbury, borrowed a neighbor’s plow to dig out a vacationing friend’s home in Readington. When the plow got stuck and he asked his friend’s neighbors for help, they summoned police.
Officers said Barnes smelled like marijuana, and found a small amount of pot and a pipe in his possession.
He was charged with marijuana possession and carrying “drug paraphernalia,” offenses that could have gotten him up to a year in jail.
Barnes said he took his doctor with him to meet with the municipal prosecutor and reached a deal. As soon as he could present his state-issued card authorizing him to legally possess marijuana, the charges would be dismissed.
But, with the repeated delays in implementation of New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, the prosecutor apparently got tired of waiting for Barnes to get his card. The municipal court confirmed that the case against Barnes was dropped last week.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Barnes told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I really credit the judge and prosecutor in this for seeking justice rather than just seeking a conviction.”
There are similar cases around the state, according to Chris Goldstein, spokesman for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, but patients are usually afraid to speak publicly about them because of fear of offending prosecutors and judges.
The underlying issue remains in limbo. New Jersey is planning a March 7 hearing to get public input on a proposed set of regulations from the Christie administration that many medical marijuana patients and advocates say is too strict. Legislators, meanwhile, are considering going back to the drawing board and forcing new regulations to be written.