New Jersey resident John Wilson, 37, may spend the next five years in prison because he grew marijuana, which he used to treat his multiple sclerosis. A judge handed down the five-year sentence on Friday, months after a jury found Wilson guilty of growing 17 marijuana plants—which he used only to treat the effects of his debilitating illness.
Throughout most of his trial, Wilson was prevented from mentioning his disease to the jury. Then in January, New Jersey became the 14th state in the nation to pass a medical marijuana law, but Wilson was still not allowed to argue a medical defense, because the law did not exist at the time of his arrest. New Jersey’s law does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana (as Wilson had done) but it will provide them with safe access to their medicine through dispensaries—which would have eliminated the need for Wilson to grow his own plants, if only the law had been passed two years earlier.
There is a chance that Wilson might receive parole and be out of prison in about a year, if he is accepted into the state’s Intensive Supervision Program, but that has not yet been decided. In the meantime, his attorney, James Wronko, is promising to appeal. “I continue to be amazed that in our system of justice, an individual who is growing marijuana to treat his personal multiple sclerosis ends up in state prison,” Wronko told a local news outlet. “I find it extremely ironic that an individual who could not afford medicine and had to resort to growing marijuana is now going to state prison where he will be given access to all the drugs available to treat multiple sclerosis.”