MS Patient Makes Bail in NJ Medical Marijuana Case

A multiple sclerosis patient slapped with a five-year prison sentence for growing marijuana that he said was for medical purposes says he’ll just say no to the drug until it becomes legal in New Jersey this summer.

John Wilson was freed from Southern State Prison on $15,000 bail Thursday. Earlier this week, a court ruled he could be released while he appeals his drug conviction.

As he left prison, the 37-year-old was more concerned with getting a shave and a haircut than a joint.

New Jersey lawmakers have adopted a medical marijuana law set to take effect Aug. 1.

“Whenever they open the program, I would register and abide by the law,” Wilson said. “You know what I mean.”

Wilson, 37, was convicted last year of manufacturing marijuana and possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Last month, he was sentenced to five years in prison. His case is a prime example for medical marijuana advocates of how the system now gets these cases wrong.

Even under New Jersey’s law, patients will not be allowed to grow their own pot. They’ll have to get it through state-authorized treatment centers.

Wilson argues the judge in his trial in Somerset County last December erred by not allowing him to enter evidence about his medical condition or tell jurors that he was using pot to treat it.

He says the pot plants growing in the yard of the home he rented in Franklin Township were only for his own use.

As he emerged from prison around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, his bleach blond hair was shaggier than he’d like and he was bearded — to his mother’s consternation.

He said the prison razors hurt his face too much to shave.

Wilson said prison was “scary” but that aside from some muscle spasms, his health was OK while he was in custody.

He said he was due to begin receiving his traditional MS drugs on Friday, but declined. When he’s free on bail, he said, he can’t afford to pay the $3,000-a-month cost.

– Article from the Associated Press.

Somerset man with multiple sclerosis may remain free on bail while appealing marijuana conviction

by Jennifer Golson, The Star-Ledger

A Franklin Township man who was sent to prison for growing marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis may remain free on $15,000 bail while his appeal is pending, a Superior Court judge ruled today.

John Ray Wilson, 37, is serving a five-year sentence for second-degree drug manufacturing and third-degree drug possession for growing 17 plants behind the house he rented in August 2008.

On Monday, the Appellate Division agreed to stay his sentence, leaving Judge Robert Reed to determine an appropriate bail. After today’s hearing in Somerville, Reed imposed a figure far below the typical range for such an offense and ordered Wilson to surrender his passport to his defense lawyer.

Reed, who presided over Wilson’s trial in December, initially denied the motion defense attorney James Wronko filed, asking the judge to let Wilson remain free while he fights the conviction.

Reed reiterated he does not think Wilson is a risk to the community or a flight risk. “I failed to find that there was a substantial legal issue to be decided by the Appellate Division and rather deferred to my learned colleagues in that division,” he said, citing his reasons for denying the motion on April 9.

The appeal targets the decisions Reed made before the trial prohibiting Wilson from arguing personal use as a defense and barring him from referencing his condition. Personal use was not a defense for the charges, and the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act does not take effect until July.

During the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Cassandra Serentino noted the typical range for such an offense is $75,000 and $150,000, but deferred to Reed and what he deemed appropriate.

Wronko said he it would be greedy of him to ask Reed to allow Wilson to be released on his own recognizance and asked for $10,000 bail, knowing it would have to be cash or bond.

Reed noted that the primary purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court and took Wilson’s family ties into account. His relatives and supporters were present throughout the trial.

Reed also used the hearing as an opportunity to address those who vilified the judge and the judiciary as Wilson’s case progressed. He has been disappointed by those who don’t understand the roles of the three branches of government. The Legislature creates law, not the judiciary.

“I have especially been disappointed by the personal attacks on me by people I would consider to be well-meaning, but-ill informed,” Reed said.

Wilson is at Southern State Correctional Facility in Cumberland County, and was not in court.

“I appreciate the fact that the judge decided it was appropriate to go well below the guidelines in setting bail,” Wronko said after court. “The family will be able to raise the appropriate monies to obtain a bail bondsman and at present, our energies are all geared towards getting John Wilson out of prison and home to his family as quickly as possible.”

It’s unclear how often a defendant is released on bail after he has started serving his sentence, but it’s not every day, said Donald DiGioia, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey. In addition to proving there is no risk, “You have to show that there’s some merit to the appeal,” he said.

While they are thrilled that Wilson will be released, members of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana — New Jersey think the Attorney General’s Office should never have pursued the case, said Ken Wolski, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

“We thought he didn’t deserve to serve a single day in jail,” said Wolski, who attended the hearing. They started sending former Attorney General Anne Milgram letters after Wilson’s arrest in August of 2008.

Medical marijuana advocates protest at Somerset courthouse
New Jersey considers a medical marijuana law

– Article from The Star-Ledger.