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Off the record: New Jersey man has pot charges dropped

Just over a year ago, David Barnes was placed in handcuffs and forced to peer into a future including jail and fines. His crime? Trying to cope with a ravaging illness.

The 50-year-old internal auditor is afflicted with cyclic vomiting syndrome that subjects him to vomiting attacks that can last up to three days. A doctor told him to take marijuana for the condition; while pot eases the symptoms, it doesn't stop the condition.

New Jersey lawmakers were trying to help people like Barnes when in January of 2010 they made marijuana legal for people with certain kinds of medical conditions.

Unfortunately, politicians have been bickering over the details of how to enforce the law, delaying its implementation.

Just a month after the law was passed, Barnes was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and with possession of drug paraphernalia.

And lawmakers and the governor continued to bicker over the details of implementing medical marijuana laws, leaving Barnes with a criminal charge hanging over his head.

If the medical marijuana program had been in place, as legislators intended when they passed the bill, Barnes would have been unlikely to be staring a year in jail in the face. But that's the potential punishment he could have received if convicted.

Since his arrest, reports, he's been going to hearings regarding the implementation of medical marijuana laws and has even peppered the governor with questions at town hall meetings.

Still, nothing changed. The law wasn't implemented and the charges against him remained.

Finally, the wheels of justice turned in his favor just over a week ago, when prosecutors gave in and dropped the charges against him.

Barnes was understandably relieved. "I really credit the judge and prosecutor in this for seeking justice rather than just seeking a conviction," he said.

Let's hope the governor and legislature soon decide to act rather than just talk about helping people with medical problems that can be relieved by marijuana.

Resource: "Charges dropped against N.J. man who said he used marijuana to treat medical condition": March 1, 2011