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Medical Marijuana: New Jersey MS Patient Gets Five Years for Growing His Medicine

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #625)
Drug War Issues

New Jersey Multiple Sclerosis patient John Ray Wilson was sentenced last Friday to five years in prison for growing marijuana plants to ease his symptoms. Wilson, whose case we profiled in December, originally faced up to 20 years in prison, but a jury failed to convict him of the most serious charge, maintaining a habitation where marijuana is manufactured. He was convicted of manufacturing marijuana (17 plants) and possession of psychedelic mushrooms.

courthouse demo supporting John Ray Wilson, 2009
Wilson was convicted in December, before New Jersey recognized medical marijuana. Ironically, it became the 14th state to do so between the time Wilson was convicted and his sentencing. But the new New Jersey law would not have protected Wilson's marijuana growing because it only allows for patients to obtain it at state-monitored dispensaries.

State Superior Court Judge Robert Reed banned any references to Wilson's medical condition during his trial, finding that personal use was not a defense and that New Jersey had no law protecting medical marijuana use. Wilson was ultimately able to make a brief, one-sentence mention of his medical reasons for growing marijuana, but that wasn't enough to sway the jury.

Wilson's attorney, James Wronko, told the Associated Press that the outcome might have been different had the jury been allowed to hear more about his illness. "We're disappointed that he's in state prison for smoking marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis," Wronko . "I think anytime someone using marijuana for their own medical use goes to state prison, it's clearly a harsh sentence."

Wilson's case became a cause célèbre for regional medical marijuana advocates, and also drew attention from the state legislature. Two state senators, Nicholas Scutari, sponsor of the medical marijuana bill, and Ray Lesniak, called in October for Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to pardon Wilson. But Corzine punted, saying he preferred to wait until after Wilson's trial had finished. Now, Wilson has been sentenced to prison, Corzine's term has ended, and new Republican Gov. Chris Christie is not nearly as medical marijuana-friendly.

Wronko said an appeal of the sentence was in the works.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Jean Boyd (not verified)

Still bad in NJ. They can't ban you in court from talking. It is un-constitutional and anyway it is immoral and un-ethical. But yet they all go along with the program. This is why we beccome drug addicts in the first place.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 2:41pm Permalink
Anon (not verified)

The judge should be removed from the bench (indeed, the public payroll in any capacity, and no retirement benefits). It's the role of the jury to decide what is a valid defense. The judge here took it upon himself to act as defense counsel and shape their strategy.

I realize this is not uncommon, but it's just plain wrong and undermines the entire jury system. In effect the judge is expressing a lack of faith in that system, saying that the jurors are gullible fools who'd believe anything.

How can NJ claim this was a fair trial when the defense was forbidden to discuss motive?

Mon, 03/29/2010 - 1:38pm Permalink
RASTA42096 (not verified)

im 14 i use the herb for recreational use i dont see anything wrrong with that three months ago i was smokeing at a friends house and the police came i was arrested handcuffed and slamed to the car im 14 not a big kid just becuse i wouldent hand over my phone battery dose anyone see anything wrong with this i think the pig should be removed from the force im a recreational user and now am getting drug counceling becuse newjersey thinks im an addict i think this medical user should b set free i was charged with criminal trustpass and possesion i had nothing on me and they wouldent show me what they said i possesed

Sun, 08/14/2011 - 12:45pm Permalink

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