Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NJ State Senators Ask For Pardon of Medical Marijuana User

In a major development in New Jersey today, two of the Senators sponsoring The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act asked for the Governor to pardon John Ray Wilson!

The full press release is below.

Chris Goldstein

News From

NJ Senate Democrats

Visit us on the World Wide Web at: www.njsendems.com

FOR RELEASE: Immediate CONTACT: Jason Butkowski
October 26, 2009 Tel: (609) 292-5215
Fax: (609) 633-7254


Lawmakers Say Imprisonment of Somerset County Man Suffering with MS is
Inhumane, Illegal and Inconsistent with Direction of State’s Drug Policies

TRENTON – Calling the prosecution of a self-medicating Somerset County
man with multiple sclerosis (MS) a “severe, inappropriate,
discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law,”
Senators Nicholas P. Scutari and Raymond J. Lesniak today urged Governor
Jon Corzine to pardon Franklin Township resident John Ray Wilson, and
called on the Assembly to quickly move legislation to decriminalize the
medicinal use of marijuana by New Jerseyans with chronic and terminal

“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.”

In August of 2008, a training fly-over by a New Jersey National Guard
helicopter spotted 17 marijuana plants in the backyard of John Ray
Wilson’s Franklin Township home. 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.

Unable to afford purchasing expensive pharmaceutical drugs to ease his
pain, Wilson attempted to grow marijuana for his own personal, medical
use in the backyard of his home. Now, he’s being charged with multiple
counts of possession and manufacturing of illegal drugs, the most severe
of which – first degree maintaining or operating a drug-production
facility – carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and
disqualifies him for the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, an
alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders. State
prosecutors have offered a plea agreement of four years imprisonment, but
the Union County lawmakers called on Governor Corzine to pardon Wilson of
the drug-production facility charge in order to make him eligible to
participate in PTI and avoid a prison sentence.

“It is legally inappropriate, humanly cruel and fiscally wasteful to
impose any kind of prison term for Mr. Wilson,” said Senator Lesniak.
“If anything, this is precisely the sort of case that should have been
diverted to Pre-Trial Intervention. A lengthy prison sentence for John
Ray Wilson would most likely guarantee that he will die behind bars, and
the court should have pursued other options if it was truly concerned
with justice.”

Last week, Superior Court Judge Robert Reed ruled that Wilson’s medical
condition, and the fact that he had been taking marijuana to treat his
condition, could not be revealed to the jury during the course of the
trial. The trial, which will be given a starting date on Friday in
Superior Court in Somerville, NJ, will likely be a “relict of New
Jersey’s outdated, inconsiderate, socially irresponsible and fiscally
reprehensible zero-tolerance approach in treating patients using medical
marijuana to relieve their suffering like hardened criminals,” according
to Senator Scutari.

“Not only is the prosecutor over-reaching and overzealously pursuing the
letter of the law, but the judge is enabling this kind of witch hunt,”
said Senator Scutari. “It seems patently unfair and unjust to force John
Ray Wilson into jail without taking serious consideration of his medical
condition. The court should have also taken into account the extenuating
circumstances involving new Federal guidelines on medical marijuana and
the progress of in-State legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession
and use by New Jerseyans with debilitating medical conditions.”

In addition to asking Governor Corzine to issue clemency for John Ray
Wilson, both lawmakers agreed that the Assembly must quickly move S-119,
sponsored by Senator Scutari and co-sponsored by Senator Lesniak, when
the Legislature reconvenes this fall. Entitled the “New Jersey
Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” the bill would decriminalize
the possession and use of marijuana by State-registered patients with
“debilitating medical conditions,” as identified by a New Jersey-licensed
physician. The bill would also require the State Department of Health
and Senior Services to oversee the establishment and administration of
alternative treatment centers, where qualified, registered patients would
be able to obtain medical marijuana and any related supplies and
educational materials.

“The only way we’re going see less of these cases come before the court
is if the ‘New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’ becomes
the law of the land,” said Senator Lesniak. “This has been an issue that
has taken years to resolve in New Jersey, and legislative approval and
enactment into law are long past overdue. It’s time that the Assembly
post this bill for a vote, so we can focus our attention on putting real
criminals behind bars, and not piling on the suffering for terminal
patients simply seeking a little relief from the symptoms of their

“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 Senator
Scutari. “If we had just passed this legislation years ago, we wouldn’t
even be having a discussion about John Ray Wilson, and he’d be able to
get access to drugs to manage the pain and spasticity of MS without fear
of persecution. On behalf of John Ray Wilson and the thousands of State
residents suffering from long-term, chronic and terminal illnesses, I
call on the Assembly to send the medical marijuana legislation to the
Governor to finally be signed into law.”

The “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” was approved by
the Senate in February by a vote of 22-16, and was advanced out of the
Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in June by a vote of 8-1,
with 2 abstentions. It is currently pending before the full Assembly
before going to Governor Corzine to be signed into law.

Jason Butkowski
Deputy Communications Director for Technology
New Jersey Senate Democratic Office
P: (609) 292-5215
F: (609) 633-7254

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