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Published on Aug 21, 2009
Proponents of medical marijuana gathered at the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville to support a Franklin Township man who faces drug charges for growing marijuana in his backyard. John Ray Wilson, 36, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, but because he does not have health insurance, he says he cannot afford prescription medicines. He has tried a number of therapies, including honeybee stings, but says marijuana is the best medicine he has found. His attorney, James Wronko, of Somerville, says Wilson didnt want to continue buying marijuana from drug dealers so he decided to try and grow it himself. But a helicopter pilot spotted the 17 plants, which were over six feet tall, in his backyard and alerted authorities. Wilson was charged with maintaining a drug production facility, a first-degree offense, and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, up to 10 years without parole. In July, Superior Court Judge Robert Reed ruled Wilson cannot mention his illness at trial because personal use of marijuana is not a legal defense in New Jersey, even though the state legislature is currently considering a law that would legalize medical marijuana. Wronko has appealed the decision. (Video by Nyier Abdou/The Star-Ledger)