by Phillip Smith
A New Jersey man convicted of marijuana manufacture after he grew 17 plants in his backyard to use to treat his multiple sclerosis was ordered to prison to begin serving a five-year sentence Wednesday even as he appeals his conviction to the state Supreme Court.
According to a report from New Jersey-Pennsylvania marijuana reform activist Chris Goldstein's Freedom is Green blog, John Ray Wilson, 38, was taken into custody at the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville immediately after a hearing where he sought unsuccessfully to continue to be granted bail pending the result of that appeal.
Wilson was arrested in 2008 and convicted of manufacture after he was not allowed to present evidence that he was growing the plants for his own use. He served five weeks in jail then before being granted bail and freed as he appealed to the New Jersey Appellate Division. He lost in the appeals court last month, and his attorney, William Buckman then filed a notice of petition to the Supreme Court to appeal the manufacturing conviction.
In Somerville Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Angela Borkowski ruled that any bail appeal should be made not to her court but to the Appellate Division, Goldstein reported. Buckman said he would file for bail immediately.
Deputy Attorney General Russell Curley argued during the hearing that Wilson should begin serving his sentence immediately, and Judge Borkowski agreed. He was taken into custody after the hearing.
"We think that the appellate decision is misguided," said Wilson’s attorney William Buckman, "We are hoping that the Supreme Court will set the record straight that New Jersey doesn’t want to put sick people or simple individual marijuana users into prison at the cost of $35,000 a year."
Wilson's plight has drawn the attention of activists who have championed his cause, including the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, whose executive director, Ken Wolski, was in the courtroom Wednesday.
"CMMNJ is still hopeful there is a chance for justice in the state Supreme Court," he told Goldstein. "But we are very disappointed that John is back in jail."