Five Years for Pot? Multiple Sclerosis and Medical Marijuana Patient Faces Bail Hearing Tomorrow

John Ray Wilson has multiple sclerosis, a disease, like many others, for which medical marijuana is proven to be incredibly beneficial: It helps to control symptoms like pain and spasticity and slows the disease's disabling progression.

The medical benefits of marijuana have prompted many states to allow MS patients access to the plant.  For John Ray Wilson, however, the legislation came too late.  Tomorrow, Somerset County, New Jersey Judge Marino will determine whether Wilson will be released from prison or wait, incarcerated, until the Supreme Court reviews his case. 

In August of 2008, Wilson was arrested in New Jersey for growing 17 marijuana plants.  Two years later, in January of 2010, New Jersey legalized marijuana for multiple sclerosis patients.  Shockingly, around the same time as the new legislation, a judge convicted Wilson of marijuana "manufacturing."  Even more disturbing is that Wilson was barred from disclosing his MS diagnosis in court.  The judge gave him the minimum sentence for growing marijuana - five years behind bars. 

After five weeks in jail, Wilson was released on bond, pending the results of his appeal to an astounding five-year prison sentence. But in late July of this year, an Appellate Court upheld Wilson's conviction, despite the recent medical marijuana laws (have not yet taken effect) that would qualify Wilson to legally use marijuana.  He was incarcerated on August 24, 2011.

According to a press release,

Attorney William Buckman has filed a petition to the State Supreme Court.  The bail hearing tomorrow will determine if Wilson can remain with his family as the Supreme Court appeal is considered.  Mr. Buckman’s office reports that the State intends to vigorously oppose the release of Wilson. 

“New Jersey already has some of the most draconian laws in the nation with respect to marijuana, costing taxpayers outrageous sums to incarcerate nonviolent, otherwise responsible individuals-- as well as in this case -- the sick and infirm,” said Buckman. “As it stands, the case now allows a person who grows marijuana to be exposed to up to 20 years in jail, even if that marijuana is strictly for his or her own medical use. No fair reading of the law would ever sanction this result.”

Wilson told NBC he used marijuana because alternative medications were too expensive.  He is currently incarcerated at the Central Reception and Assignment Facility for the New Jersey State Prison system in Trenton, New Jersey. According to the press release, Wilson's father, Ray, says Wilson is scheduled for transfer to maximum security Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ, where he may serve the remainder of his  ludicrous five-year sentence.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at September 28, 2011, 9:24am

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