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