Saturday, June 2, 2012

MS patient in NJ jailed for marijuana is set free

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John Ray Wilson, a multiple sclerosis patient, sits in Superior Court in Somerville where he was sentenced to 5 years in state prison for manufacturing and drug possession in this March 2010 file photo.

A man with multiple sclerosis who was sentenced to prison for growing 17 marijuana plants at his central New Jersey home is now a free man. 

The Star-Ledger of Newark said John Ray Wilson left prison Thursday after serving five months of his five-year term. The 39-year-old Franklin Township man was admitted to the state's Intensive Supervision Program, meaning he will be electronically monitored for the next 16 months.

Wilson's relatives were thrilled to have him back home and out of jail, though they are still angry he was sent there in the first place. "He shouldn't have spent a day there," his father, Ray Wilson, told the newspaper. "They are playing with someone's health. He lost 40 pounds in jail."

Wilson, who declined comment on his release, was found guilty of manufacturing and possessing marijuana plants in November 2009. The trial judge would not allow him to tell the jury that he grew the drug to relieve his symptoms, nor was he permitted to present an expert witness on the benefits of marijuana because the state did not have a medical marijuana law at that time.

That law, under which multiple sclerosis patients can qualify to use cannabis, was signed in January 2010. But so far, no legal marijuana dispensaries are operating in New Jersey.

Wilson challenged his conviction and prison sentence. But an appellate court rejected his arguments, saying there was no exception that would let Wilson off the legal hook. And after the state Supreme Court declined to hear his case earlier this year, Wilson began serving his sentence in January.

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, an organization that lobbied for Wilson's clemency, told the newspaper that the group was "very happy" to see Wilson freed.

"We thought it was inappropriate for him to be is prison in the first place," he said.

Wolski, though, has some concerns about Wilson, who does not have health insurance and has relied on marijuana and holistic measures such as bee stings to ease his discomfort. Wolski said the marijuana use is no longer an option, since Wilson will be subject to drug testing as part of the intensive supervision program. --
Information from: The Star-Ledger


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