John Ray Wilson has multiple sclerosis. No one disputes that.
Marijuana can help relieve the symptoms of MS. No one disputes that – and that’s why MS sufferers are among those qualified to use pot under New Jersey’s long-delayed medical-marijuana program.
Wilson, who was arrested in 2008 after a National Guard helicopter spotted 17 marijuana plants growing behind his rented house in Franklin Township, was not distributing the drug. It was for personal use, to relieve his symptoms. No one disputes that.
But today, Wilson is facing a five-year sentence in state prison for manufacturing and possessing marijuana. Criminal convictions do not get more absurd than this one.
It is, of course, a travesty that two years after New Jersey’s medical-marijuana law was signed – legalizing marijuana for MS patients – none of the promised dispensaries have opened. But they likely will open sometime during the course of Wilson’s imprisonment. He could, conceivably, eventually get medical marijuana while in prison for growing marijuana.
You can’t completely blame the courts on this one. At the time of Wilson’s arrest, there was no law allowing medical use. The judge therefore refused to allow him to testify that he grew the marijuana to relieve his MS symptoms. An appellate court upheld the conviction, noting that there was nothing in the law allowing an exemption for Wilson’s situation. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
So John Ray Wilson is looking at five years in prison.
There is, however, one legal avenue still available to him. Gov. Chris Christie can commute his sentence immediately.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, has called on Christie to do exactly that. And we agree. Commute Wilson’s sentence and set him free.
This case is a perfect of example of why governors have the power to commute sentences and issue pardons. Sometime the law is simply no match for the facts of a situation. Wilson does not deserve to be behind bars. There is no reason for the state to pay the expense of imprisoning him.
Wilson’s case is also one more reason why it is critical for New Jersey to stop dawdling and get the medical-marijuana program up and running.
Christie deserves some of the blame for the delays. The medical-marijuana law was signed by Gov. Jon Corzine on his last day in office. Christie did not approve of the law and clearly was in no rush to implement it. But commuting Wilson’s sentence would be an opportunity for Christie to deflect criticism over the program’s delays.
And … it would be the fair, just and sensible thing to do.