By David Cruz
A Somerset County man turned himself in today to begin serving a prison sentence for growing marijuana in his backyard. But John Ray Wilson says he grew the plant for personal use to help alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
At the Somerset County Courthouse, a handful of demonstrators showed their support for Wilson, who was to begin serving a five-year prison sentence today after the state Supreme Court refused to hear his case this week.
Wilson, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was arrested in 2008, after police confiscated marijuana plants and charged him with manufacturing the plant, which he maintains is the only thing that helps him deal with his condition.
“I just don’t understand why someone that couldn’t afford conventional medicine should be thrown in jail for trying to treat himself,” said Wilson. “I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m just hoping that I will receive some medication while I’m incarcerated because last time I did not receive any.”
Wilson’s case has highlighted the inadequacies of New Jersey’s two-year-old Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Law, which allows individuals with conditions like MS to use marijuana for treatment. So far, though, the program is stalled with some towns refusing to allow marijuana farms and others making it difficult for dispensaries to open.
Senator Nick Scutari, who sponsored the state’s medical marijuana law, and others, including a number of medical marijuana advocates and lawmakers, have called on Gov. Chris Christie to pardon Wilson or commute his sentence, something which Christie – like his predecessor Jon Corzine – has thus far refused to do. Scutari says the Wilson case shows a lack of compassion on the part of the state.