SPARTA – A New Jersey medical marijuana user is facing drug charges because he sought police assistance following a domestic disturbance that nearly cost him his life.

Scott Waselik walked into a police station in the town of Sparta, New Jersey on October 8, with a stab wound to his chest. He was the victim, he said, of a breakup gone awry. Waselik’s former roommate Kevin Rios was arrested for the attack, which left Waselik in the hospital for a week.

His health is improving, but the 23-year-old’s problems are piling up. While investigating the stabbing, police found marijuana in Waselik’s home. Now, he’s incurring thousands in legal fees to defend himself on drug possession charges.

The kicker? Waselik is a medical marijuana patient registered under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. He suffers from Crohn’s disease and uses marijuana to reduce seizure risk and counteract nausea that is caused by his pharmaceutical treatments.

“The only relief I’ve found was smoking,” he said.

His medication was the last thing on his mind when he walked into the police station.

“I would have died if I didn’t get there within an hour,” he recounted.

But when cops entered his house they found and confiscated drugs and smoking devices.

“They disregard any compassion for card-holding patients,” Waselik said. “Rather than doing any type of crime-scene evidence [about the stabbing], they decided to just go the marijuana route at that point.”

Sparta police did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Around 22,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey each year, pinning a criminal record on defendants who have hurt no one in addition to tying up law enforcement and court resources. Some arrestees, like Waselik, are supposed to be legally authorized to use the drug.

New Jersey NORML executive director Evan Nison said the group has been hearing on a regular basis from medical marijuana card holders who get arrested.

“The state has said this person is sick enough to get medical marijuana, medical marijuana could help them, they are failing to provide access and then arresting them for having to look elsewhere,” Nison said.

The problem is that the state’s strict statute and ever stricter regulations make it impossible for many patients who qualify for treatment to actually obtain their medication legally.

“Many potential patients who can benefit from marijuana therapy are not able to get legal access to it,” said Ken Wolski, CEO of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey.

“Governor Christie said he was opposed to this law when he first came into office in January 2010 and he’s been putting stumbling blocks and delays in the implementation of this program every since,” Wolski said. “The result is that patients continue to get arrested.”

Attorney General guidelines instruct police officers to attempt to verify a medical cardholder’s participation in the program and not to make an arrest or confiscate any drugs from anyone they find to be in compliance with the law. Officers should not follow an “arrest first, let the court figure it out later” approach, the guidelines say. They also point out that “items otherwise constituting ‘drug paraphernalia’ that are used to administer or ingest medical marijuana” should not be taken or used as evidence for criminal charges.

Marijuana purchased from alternative treatment centers is packaged with identification information, and Waselik acknowledged that the drugs the police found in his house did not come from a treatment center. Waselik denied the weed was his; however, it’s possible that, on a technicality, the police might have a case against him.

– Links:

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/arresting-card-carrying-medical-marijuana-patients-pot-possession?page=0%2C1

http://spartaindependent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20131009/NEWS01/131009936/0/funandgames04/Stabbing-victim-walks-into-police-station#sthash.f4YwXlx4.dpuf
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