UNION COUNTY – Two area lawmakers are asking Gov. Jon Corzine to pardon a Somerset County man with multiple sclerosis who was spotted growing marijuana behind his house by a New Jersey National Guard helicopter pilot in August 2008.
Calling the prosecution of 36-year-old John Ray Wilson “inhumane,” Senators Nicholas P. Scutari and Raymond J. Lesniak are urging Corzine to pardon Wilson, and calling on the Legislature to decriminalize the medicinal use of marijuana by New Jerseyans with chronic and terminal illnesses.
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.
Alerted by the helicopter pilot, authorities searched the house and found 17 marijuana plants, some empty baggies and a hallucinogenic mushroom. Now Wilson faces charges of operating a drug-production facility, illegal manufacturing and drug possession.
If convicted on all charges Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors have offered a plea bargain with a four year prison sentence, but the lawmakers called on the governor to pardon Wilson of the drug-production facility charge in order to make him eligible to participate in Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders.
Superior Court Judge Robert Reed ruled that Wilson’s medical condition and the assertion that he had been using marijuana to treat it could not be revealed to the jury during his trial.
“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 Scutari. “If we had just passed this legislation years ago, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion about John Ray Wilson.”
The legislation was approved by the Senate in February by a vote of 22-16, and is currently pending approval by the Assembly.
“New Jersey’s tough criminal drug laws were never intended to be used against patients suffering from chronic and terminal medical conditions,” said Lesniak.
Many of the 827,000 Americans arrested last year used cannabis for self-treatment, according to New Jersey marijuana law reform activist Chris Goldstein.
Scutari and Lesniak are sponsoring legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana.
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