Jacob Sullum reports:
John Ray Wilson, the New Jersey man who was convicted in December of growing marijuana that he used to treat his multiple sclerosis, was sentenced on March 19 to five years in state prison. Wilson was not permitted to present a medical defense, because at the time of his trial New Jersey did not permit marijuana use for any reason. After he was convicted, New Jersey became the 14th state to allow the medical use of marijuana, although the new law does not allow patients to grow their own cannabis, instead requiring them to obtain it from state-licensed dispensaries. Gov. Jon Corzine, who signed the medical marijuana law, said he could not consider clemency for Wilson until after the trial. He has since been succeeded by Republican Chris Christie.
This case is upsetting for all sorts of reasons, and I see why legalization advocates are using it as an example of the morally suspect outcome in some drug cases, but I’d like to highlight another angle: based on the estimates I’ve found, it will cost almost $200,000 to incarcerate this man for five years in the New Jersey penal system.
Shouldn’t this be an issue for fiscal conservatives? Factoring in police and court costs, it’s going to require at least a quarter of a million dollars by the time New Jersey is done with Mr. Wilson. Is there anyone who will argue that this is a good use of taxpayer funds? In the effort to end the War on Drugs, I think the fiscal angle is powerful and insufficiently exploited. If social liberals and libertarians can win fiscal conservatives to their side, it may be a tipping point.