New Jersey: Stunning Reversal at Medical Marijuana Trial

December 17, 2009 – A judge reversed course today, allowing a man on trial for possession of 17 marijuana plants that he was growing during the summer of 2008 to testify about his medical condition.
Judge Robert Reed had earlier ruled that defendant John Ray Wilson could not present a defense based on this medical condition.

But then, after taking the stand in his own defense today, and after multiple conferences among the lawyers and the judge, Wilson was allowed to say “I told them(the arresting officers) I was not a drug dealer and I was using the marijuana for my MS(Multiple Sclerosis).”

Whatever the legal maneuvering defense attorney James Wronko did to get that admitted, it is critical for the medical marijuana movement, advocates said.

“I think it carried weight, even though it was one sentence. I’m sure the jury heard he had MS today,” said Chris Goldstein of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey.

But no followup was allowed. There was no chance to expand on Wilson’s claim of MS, and Judge Reed made clear there will not be as the trial goes to closing arguments on Thursday in the Somerset County Courthouse.

Wilson faces up to 20 years on the drug manufacturing charge, much to the frustration of medical marijuana advocates.

“These(laws) were intended for cocaine kingpins and heroin dealers, not for an MS patient growing 17 cannabis plants for his own personal use,” said the Coalition’s Miller.

It remains to be seen if Wilson’s reference to MS will have any influence with the jury. Police do say he never denied growing the marijuana when they came to his house on August 18th, 2008 after a National Guard helicopter spotted the plants from the air.

When they searched his home, they also found two sandwich bags of pot, along with another small bag of what turned out to be illegal, hallucinogenic mushrooms.

If Wilson is convicted, two sympathetic state senators want Governor Jon Corzine to pardon him before Corzine leaves office January 19th. Those two senators, Nicholas Scutari and Ray Lesniak, are also leading an effort in the lame duck legislature to pass a Medical Marijuana law before Republican Chris Christie takes office that day. Although Christie has said he supports Medical Marijuana, it is not clear he would approve the current version before the legislature.

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