Drug Law

NJ Glaucoma Patient Offered 7 Years in Prison for Growing Pot

| by NORML
By "Radical" Russ Belville

According to New Jersey’s Courier-Post, 63-year-old Edwin Struve has been offered a seven-year prison sentence in a plea deal for being caught growing 58 marijuana plants at his home.  Struve is a board-certified physician in internal medicine who suffers from glaucoma.  He practiced internationally, attending to patients in impoverished countries.  He also practiced medicine on a Mississippi Indian reservation where he was once attacked and choked by a patient, leading to brain damage which, along with his glaucoma, makes it impossible for him to continue his practice.

The police report makes no distinction as to how many of these plants were in flowering, vegetative, and seedling stages – it is common practice for medical users of cannabis to maintain plants in different stages to ensure a continuous supply of medicine, so it is unlikely that all 58 plants were flowering and capable of producing medicine.

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Napurano said the state’s plea offer is that Struve admit to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and be sentenced to seven years in prison. If the offer isn’t accepted at the end of two weeks, the state will recommend a 10-year term, with two years of parole ineligibility, Napurano said.

The seven-year term would carry no minimum of time to be served before parole consideration. Without a plea deal, or if convicted at trial, Struve could face more than 20 years in prison.

While New Jersey’s medical marijuana law does allow for the use of marijuana to treat glaucoma, that law has still not been implemented.  NJ Gov. Chris Christie is fighting the legislature over his agency’s proposed new rules that only allow three strains of cannabis to be grown at two state centers and limited to less than 10% THC, among other undue restrictions that run counter to the intent of the law.

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Unfortunately for Mr. Struve and others like him, the intent of New Jersey’s law is very clear in not allowing patients to cultivate their own marijuana.  If the medical marijuana law were functioning, Struve would be legal to use the marijuana, but still facing 20 years for not acquiring it from the state’s marijuana monopoly.