Medical Marijuana: Compassion On Trial

By chillinwill · Dec 10, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    If you want to watch a trial where the defendant has no moral culpability, is prevented from testifying truthfully and where the prosecution distorts an otherwise reasonable law beyond all rationality, you can see one this month right in Somerville.

    John Wilson, a multiple sclerosis patient treating himself with home-grown marijuana, is charged with operating a drug manufacturing facility. There is no charge, nor any evidence whatsoever, that he supplied or intended to supply marijuana to anyone but himself.

    An individual with no prior record growing marijuana plants for home use should be eligible for pre-trial intervention; but this case is being handled by the state's Organized Crime/Gangs Unit. Wilson refused to plead guilty and accept several years in prison ( a potential death sentence ), so the state is seeking the maximum 20-year sentence. To justify its "manufacturing" charge, the state determined that every day a plant grew constituted a separate offense. It matters not a whit that the statute ( N.J.S.A.2C:35-1.1 et seq. ) is intended to combat drug distribution chains and those who pose the greatest danger to society. It ignores a statutory intent focused on harm to victims and the actor's role in a drug distribution network. Section 4 of the statute even excludes coverage where an individual is compounding or preparing the substance for his own use.

    The state senators who sponsored our long-overdue and aptly named Compassionate Use Act passionately expressed their dismay over this prosecution, calling it "a severe, inappropriate, discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law." Sen. Scutari went on to label it "cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey's sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins" and characterized it as a waste of taxpayer money. Sen. Lesniak observed, "Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth less than the paper they're printed on."

    This brutally honest and on-target criticism has drawn accolades from around the country. Lawmakers obviously "get" the difference between drug cartel criminals and suffering people who turn to medical marijuana out of desperation. Even though the law does not currently recognize medical marijuana use as a defense, it does not require that the figurative book be thrown at a patient.

    To compound the cruel absurdity of this prosecution, it is being conducted with full awareness of legislative action that would protect Wilson from a prison sentence. New Jersey's Senate passed the Compassionate Use Act, and it has been favorably voted out of the Assembly Health Committee. Once technical revisions are completed, it is expected to pass the full Legislature, and Gov. Corzine has stated publicly that he would sign it. Informed and enlightened people accept the voluminous scientific evidence of the efficacy of marijuana to alleviate the nightmare of multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.

    Outrageously, but understandably, the prosecution desperately wants jurors to be denied all the truly relevant facts. It has fought to forbid Wilson from mentioning his disease, that marijuana has been proven to be an effective palliative for multiple sclerosis, that he was using it solely for that purpose, that 13 other states have legalized it for that purpose and that New Jersey is about to. All the jurors will be allowed to hear is evidence proving Wilson "manufactured" marijuana. This is the type of injustice one is accustomed to seeing in a dictatorship -- not in America.

    Wilson's plight is additional evidence that our nation's founders were wise indeed when they recognized the crucial role "jury nullification" plays in any democratic system of government. Our founders knew that there are times when, to do actual justice, jurors must refuse to follow the letter of the law and act on their instincts of what is right. But if we expect trial by jury to continue to be the final bulwark against unjust prosecutions, jurors must have the truth. They will not get it in court in this case.

    Instead of seeking justice, the Attorney General's Office wastes public resources, its power, its credibility and worst of all, its integrity to inflict inhumane punishment on a suffering patient who merits no blame, a patient whom legislators are working to protect. It is execrable that it tortures the law to demand a maximum prison sentence on a patient suffering a crippling, incurable disease for conduct that helped him, harmed no one and that will soon be as legal as it has always been moral.

    In the strife of every battle for human rights, someone is the last one martyred. Despite overwhelming evidence that John Wilson is a patient and not a drug kingpin, it is shameful that the state Attorney General's Office knowingly and aggressively seeks to sacrifice him. Is this to be what is allowed to pass for justice in New Jersey?

    Edward R. Hannaman, an attorney from Ewing, is a member of the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey ( CMMNJ ).

    Edward R. Hannaman
    December 9, 2009
    The Times

    Share This Article


  1. chillinwill
    John Wilson trial, MS patient faces marijuana charges

    The trial is moving with unexpected speed for John Wilson, a New Jersey Multiple Sclerosis patient who had 17 cannabis plants spotted outside his home last year.

    A jury was selected today and the trial got underway at 1:30PM within the Somerset County Courthouse.

    Wilson's trial will continue throughout the week, but testimony may conclude as early as Wednesday. Supporters from CMMNJ and NORML-NJ plan to be present.

    Prosecuting the case is Deputy Attorney General Russ Curley. The presiding Superior Court Judge and prosecution have zealously kept out any information or testimony regarding medical marijuana or even personal use, arguing the reason why the plants were grown is irrelevant.

    The state Attorney General’s office has charged him with the first-degree felony of ‘Operating a Drug Manufacturing Facility,’ a statute originally created to go after cocaine dealers. The Superior Court Judge presiding over the trial has barred John and his defense attorney from mentioning to the jury that John even has MS.

    Wilson faces 15-35 years in state prison if convicted.

    Supporters held signs in front of the courthouse again today, the third public demonstration for John.

    State Senators Nicholas Scutari and Raymond Lesniak have asked for NJ Governor Jon Corzine to grant a pardon. They are both co-sponsors of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and Senator Scutari is himself a municipal prosecutor in Lynden. Their statement requesting the pardon was strongly worded:

    “It seems cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins. 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,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset. “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. Governor Corzine should step in immediately and end this perversion of criminal drug statutes in the Garden State.”

    “Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth less than the paper they’re printed on,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “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.” Read their release in full

    Chris Goldstein
    December 15, 2009
    Philadelphia NORML Examiner
  2. chillinwill
    Multiple Sclerosis patient gets five years for growing marijuana

    A former Franklin man who was convicted of growing 17 marijuana plants behind his home, drugs he said were necessary to treat his multiple sclerosis, today was sentenced to five years in jail.

    John Ray Wilson, 37, was convicted in December of second degree drug manufacturing for growing more than 10 plants and third-degree drug possession for psilocybin mushrooms.

    Superior Court Judge Robert Reed gave Wilson the lowest possible sentence for a second-degree crime. He noted that while Wilson’s violation of the law is “less egregious” than the others who manufacture controlled dangerous substances, there are others with multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses that don’t break the law.

    The Somerville courtroom was packed with Wilson’s supporters and those who championed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which will take effect in July.

    Dressed in a gray suit and white golf shirt, Wilson implored Reed to believe that he is not a bad person. “I don’t want to stand up here and make excuses for what I’ve done,” he said. “I had no malicious intent to start a drug distribution facility. Honestly, it was trying to treat my MS.”

    At trial, Wilson was acquitted of the most serious offense, operating a drug-manufacturing facility, a first-degree crime that could have carried a potential 20-year sentence.

    Defense lawyer James Wronko insisted that his client never wanted to be the poster boy for the legislation that was the subject of widespread debate. But he did not have medical insurance, and all the other alternative measures he tried to alleviate his symptoms failed.

    Wronko asked the judge to give him probation, rather than jail time. In court, he said: “Mr. Wilson’s acts never affected any other members of society, except for the drug companies,” who want people to buy their medications.

    Deputy Attorney General Daniel Bornstein argued for a seven-year sentence, insisting the judge consider Wilson’s criminal history. He had eight prior arrests since 1992. In the first case, he received admission into the pre-trial intervention program, and was arrested again shortly after his release.

    “That did not deter him from engaging in criminal behavior,” Bornstein said. “This shows that he is a compelling risk to re-offend.”

    By Jennifer Golson
    March 19, 2010
  3. chillinwill
    Legal Loss for Franklin Township Man in Medical Marijuana Case

    A New Jersey man with multiple sclerosis who says he grew marijuana to treat his condition will remained jailed while he appeals his conviction.

    John Ray Wilson of Franklin Township, Somerset County, was convicted in December 2009 of drug manufacturing and possession and was sentenced last month to five years in prison.

    State Superior Court Judge Robert Reed had barred references to Wilson's medical condition during the trial, ruling that personal use was not a defense, and that at the time New Jersey had no law sanctioning the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

    Wilson cited Reed's decisions in his appeal and sought to remain free on bail until the matter is decided. But Reed denied that motion Friday.

    April 9, 2010
    1010 Wins
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!