Thursday, January 21, 2010

Judge Reed: Don't put John Wilson in prison

Edward R. Hannaman, Esq.
Ewing, New Jersey 08618

January 21, 2010

Hon. Robert B. Reed, JSC
PO Box 3000
Somerville, New Jersey 08876-1262

Re: John Wilson Sentencing

Dear Judge Reed:

As a Board member of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, I am intensely interested in justice for medical marijuana patient John Wilson. The prosecution’s unjustified adherence to the letter of the law caused it to subvert the law’s true intent. A multiple sclerosis patient using marijuana for medical relief was never the intended target of a law prohibiting drug dealers from growing marijuana for profit. Thus, John should not have been charged under a statute with this level of severity. A proper and humane prosecution would have recognized that this statutory prohibition was not aimed at patients-as two leading legislators publicly pointed out.

Other lesser charges were available to the prosecution but it chose to treat a patient as a major drug kingpin. Had the county prosecutor handled this case, it is probable that John would now be in pre-trial intervention. The State Gangs and Organized Crime Unit however deliberately ignored virtually all the pertinent facts about John’s growing of marijuana. In addition it ignored the facts that John harmed no one, had no intent to harm anyone and did not act in any way to which the criminal law would attribute culpability as potentially harming anyone. The court should not compound the prosecution’s cruel misapplication of the criminal statutes by inflicting unjust and undeserved punishment on John Wilson. He already suffers punishment enough from multiple sclerosis.

Others have written to you to document the beneficial effects of marijuana for those suffering from this cruel, incurable disease. Its use as an effective affordable palliative is beyond question-especially to a person without steady work or medical insurance. At this juncture, the question is not simply the appropriate punishment for violation of a specific statute. Rather, the question is what sentence fits a defendant in John’s condition, using a substance purely for medicinal relief and doing so at this point in the law’s evolution.

None of the accepted rationales for incarceration apply in this case. John is obviously not a danger to society so there is no reason to separate him from it. There is no need for punishment in order to deter him. Deterrence became moot on January 18;the day the Governor signed the Compassionate Use Bill into law. Marijuana use is now a legally recognized right for patients with John’s condition. Even without this law, however, John’s imprisonment would have been unlikely to deter others as seriously ill as he. Such users already face a worse punishment from their disease. Marijuana use for patients like John is not a lifestyle choice but, rather, one borne of medical necessity. Fortunately, we stand at a moment when society has finally accepted that
punishing patients for using marijuana as a medicine is an outmoded, cruel approach with no place in law enforcement. Cases like John’s do not belong in a court but in a doctor’s office. Imprisonment here would be an atrocity to justice now that the State has formally recognized that even the prosecution of people like John is a perversion of criminal law.

By growing his own medication, John did not engage in the drug trade and he did not seek to profit in any way- only to ease his suffering. There is no reason a humane civilized society should exact retributive punishment for John’s act of self-preservation. Notably, the law accepts
justification as a defense for seriously inflicting harm on another-even killing them if necessary to protect one’s own life or that of another. How can a system that excuses the killing of another justify imprisoning a person for saving his own life while harming no other?

John is now eligible to become a legally recognized medical marijuana patient. He does not deserve to be sentenced to imprisonment as a drug manufacturer. Basic justice demands that John not be martyred to a law already recognized as inapplicable to him. In this case, the only just response is probation.

Certainly passing sentence in a case like this presents a dilemma. Does this court seek to do actual justice for this defendant or simply impose prescribed punishments for the statute’s intended targets? Does the court act in accordance with the clear intent of the law or not? John is a patient who is morally blameless and whose actions the law has subsequently vindicated. If there is to be the unnecessary cruelty of an order of imprisonment - let it come from the appellate court. Let its members bear the injustice on their consciences. One thing is certain; the sentence imposed will either worsen John’s suffering probably shortening his life, or allow him a fair chance to battle his disease.

A just sentence here comports with the true intent of the law under all the facts of this case; a sentence that recognizes John deserves treatment as a patient, not imprisonment as a criminal.

Very truly yours,

Edward R. Hannaman, Esq.


  1. I absolutely have to agree with this post. John was not in any way, shape or form a 'kingpin.' There are many criminals who need to be brought to justice, why are they picking on someone who takes care of his grandmother and has a chronic, debilitating illness?

  2. Edward,

    I'm an attorney that writes novels on the side. I need the briefs and opinion from the case. What theories were they operating under? How can a judge keep someone from from testifying, etc. I need these facts. Please help.

    And why don't we try this on Equ. Pro. grounds. Look at the charts for number of arrests and illegal immigration patterns, they match. And there's tons more, but that's what's the book's for. And to get it right, I need Mr. Wilson's legal files. The opinion, the briefs, complaints, etc. Please help.