The debate of medical marijuana in New Jersey continues as members of the Monmouth Patients Group will be holding a demonstration against what they feel is the unjust prosecution of a man arrested for using marijuana to treat his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The rally will be held in front of the Middletown Municipal Court 8am on March 12th, right before Eric Hafner is set to go before a judge for a November arrest for possession of one gram of marijuana (non prescribed) and drug paraphernalia (a pipe). Charles Kwiatkowski, president of the Monmouth Patients Group and a MS patient, is leading the rally for Hafner.

“The more patients that speak up like Mr. Hafner and myself, the more federal people are going to understand it’s a national problem. It’s not something that just New York can fix or just California can fix.” He adds “by putting pressure on them this way and having forty sick people outside of a municipal court, it shows our opinion that these people are sick, they know it works. They’re people that might be there that don’t have any illness that’s covered but they still use medical cannabis.”

Eric Hafter was arrested with possession of marijuana which he says he was using to treat PTSD. While PTSD is recognized as a condition treatable through cannabis in other states like Delaware and New Mexico, it is not one of the eight illnesses recognized by the New Jersey’s Department of Health and Senior Services that can be prescribed medicinal marijuana. Kwiatkowski says it forces patients seeking relief to go great lengths.

“It’s annoying when you have to break the law and get ripped off “ says Kwiatkowski.

Hafner who lives in California now, will not be able bring with him any of the medicinal marijuana prescribed in the state, spurring belief from Kwiatkowsi that there is a need for some kind of universal identification.

“When he [Hafner] leave California to visit his mother in New Jersey, he can’t leave his disease in California and just come here. “

Kwiatkowski believes the problems stem from New Jerseys Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), which officials announced would undergo a review every two years add additional illnesses.

“I feel it’s very important that they add PTSD for the sake of our returning veterans. If you look at the VA hospital every nine minutes another veteran takes his own life from PTSD.” Says Kwiatkowsi, he adds thousands of troops will be coming home from overseas and will be in need of help dealing with PTSD.

According to the Department of Health and Senior Services to qualify for medical marijuana “Patients must be certified by their physicians as having a debilitating medical condition, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Terminal illness also qualifies if the physician determines the patient has less than 12 months to live.”

Additionally seizure disorder, including epilepsy; intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; or glaucoma also qualify if they are resistant to traditional medicine.

Also severe symptoms such as pain, vomiting, diarrhea, etc from AIDS, HIV or cancer qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.

Kwiatkowski believes that a system like the one in New Mexico where patients cultivate it for other patients would be best.

“They know exactly what they’re doing because they’re sick too; I believe those kinds of cooperatives work the best.” He does note however the he thinks though the list of illnesses warranting medical marijuana should be expanded; it doesn’t mean that it should be given for every ailment.

“I don’t think medical cannabis should be provided to someone with a toothache, or a corn on their foot, but I do believe that if they have a problem with their central nervous system or serious pain.” He cites his own experience switching to marijuana which took him off a prescription of 60 milligrams of Oxycodone, which he says “was destroying my family. I couldn’t go swimming at the beach and trust my kids are going to be safe because I’m all zombified.”

Kwiatkowski says that similar to how marijuana is helping him manage his disease, it’s important that PTSD patients be given the same option. Especially since he believes the current traditional treatment for the illness often does more harm than good.

“ I had a few relatives in the past [with PTSD] and they were given Theraquill which pretty much just much makes you sleep and not move it’s a form of anti depressant and all of these anti depressants come with suicidal thoughts and so does PTSD and many people take their lives.”

“For me as an MS patient, I feel that I’m lucky compared to a PTSD patient. I feel like I shouldn’t have to feel that way.” Says Kwiatkowski