Eric Hafner had one of his days in court today concerning the charges of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia lodged against him by in .
And he will be back again on March 27 at 6 p.m., when he says discovery evidence will show the court that he had a prescription from his native state of California to possess and use medical marijuana.
He plans to prove that it is, or should be, alright for him to apply the California laws of use in New Jersey, since the medical marijuana was prescribed there. In California, the marijuana can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. In New Jersey, while there is a list of acceptable debilitating illnesses for which sufferers can be prescribed the medical marijuana, or cannabis, post-traumatic stress disorder, which is what Hafner has been diagnosed with, is not one of them.
In Middletown, NJ, those different laws apply and Hafner, when he appeared before Middletown Municipal Judge Richard Thompson this morning, Hafner first had some issues concerning discovery (of evidence) that he told the judge he needed to iron out with Middletown Municipal Prosecutor Gerald Massell.
"Court has nothing to do with discovery," Judge Richard Thompson said. "That is between Mr. Massell and Mr. Hafner."
So, the night court date was set and the two were told by the judge to go and discuss the discovery matter privately.
"I requested discovery (from Middletown) in January and received it on March 5, though it was dated March 1," Hafner said outside of the courtroom before the discussion took place. "The prosecutor requested it from me last week."
Hafner, in the discussion, was offered a plea deal to plead guilty and pay fines, which he refused. He has opted to have a municipal hearing, entering the discovery documents, on the March 27 date. If he had accepted the deal, the additional appearance would have been cancelled.
Hafer carried with him documentation of his legal medical marijuana use from California. A copy of his California identification was affixed to a letter from his physician, William S. Eidelman, M.D., who stated the following in a letter dated Jan. 24, 2012:
"Eric Hafner is under my medical care. He reports that cannabis relieves his medical symptoms. I recommend/approve of my patient's use of cannabis, pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act.
"If Mr. Hafner chooses to use cannabis/marijuana therapueutically, I will continue to monitor his condition and provide advice on his progress. This letter is valid for one year."
In New Jersey, state Department of Health and Senior Services decides which illnesses belong on the list of those acceptable from treatment with cannabis. Illnesses may be added, as officials in the department see fit.
So, Hafner and his supporters organized a rally in support of adding PTSD to that list. They walked along Kings Highway, outside of the Middletown courtroom buidling, before during and after his case was being heard, showing signs and offering information about the cause and Hafner's case to anyone who stopped by to listen.
"Multiple schlerosis is covered," said protesting multiple schlerosis patient Charles Kwiatkowski, of Hazlet. "Nothing much is covered at this time — not PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It should be. There are vets returning from Iraq who have PTSD and they're killing themselves. This treatment option should be available."
Hafner was charged in late November, 2011 with possession of under 50 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia as a passenger in his friend Matthew Olson's car. The charges against Olson for possession of drug paraphernalia — Hafner's marijuana pipe — were dismissed by the prosecutor, "so he can get on with his service in the military (Marines)," Middletown Judge Richard Thompson said.
Olson's charge was one that based on what is called constructive possession. When an illegal item, such as the pipe, is found in someone's car, for instance, everyone in the car is usually charged, according to police.
Hafner’s Facebook page claims:
“New Jersey legalized Medical Marijuana in 2010, yet over 2 years later the Department of Health and Senior Services has failed to implement the law. A recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll (Nov 11) found that 86% of New Jersey voters support legal medical marijuana. The people of New Jersey are vehemently opposed to this unjust prosecution being undertaken in their name and demand the charges against Mr. Hafner be dropped without delay.”
Possession of under 50 grams of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey.
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