TRENTON, NJ - New Jersey multiple sclerosis (MS) patient John Ray Wilson is preparing to resume his 5-year prison sentence after the state Supreme Court denied certification, refusing to hear his appeal, on January 20, 2012, according to his lawyer, William Buckman. Buckman called the Appellate Court decision that the Supreme Court let stand, “wrongheaded and a vicious travesty.”
Wilson was arrested on August 18, 2008 and was charged with “manufacturing” 17 marijuana plants that he used to treat his MS. Wilson faced 20 years in state prison for this crime. At trial, Superior Court Judge Robert Reed would not let the jury hear the reason that Wilson grew the marijuana plants, essentially removing Wilson’s only defense. Many members of the community felt this was an injustice and protested outside the court house in Somerville. In December 2009 Wilson was acquitted of the most serious charge, but he was convicted of a second degree charge of manufacturing marijuana. He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 19, 2010.
On July 26, 2011, an Appellate Court affirmed the conviction and sentencing. The Appellate Court agreed with the trial judge that there was no “personal use” exemption to the charge of manufacturing over ten marijuana plants. It did not matter that Wilson was using the marijuana to treat his MS, the Appellate Court ruled. They agreed that five years in prison for this crime was an appropriate sentence.
Governor Chris Christie has so far ignored appeals from State Senators Scutari and Lesniak for a pardon for Wilson. Ken Wolski, RN, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey (CMMNJ) said, “This is further proof that there is no justice for medical marijuana patients in New Jersey.”
The National MS Society confirmed in an Expert Opinion Paper that standard therapies often provide inadequate relief for the symptoms of MS and that marijuana helps with MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity and could limit disease progression. An estimated 15% of people with the disease use marijuana for symptom relief, according to the MS Society. MS is a qualifying condition for marijuana therapy in New Jersey according to the two-year-old Compassionate Use Act, but the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is not operational yet.