Jan 25th, 2003
Do we really have a "free country"

THIS PAGE DETAILS  ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE FACT THAT I'M JUST A NIGGER WITH A BIG MOUTH TO MANY WHITE AUTHORITIES! THIS PAGE DETAILS HOW I WAS JAILED FOR 5 MONTHS, "JUST FOR PUBLICLY QUESTIONING OUR NATIONS RACIST DRUG POLICIES IN POLITICAL AD'S I ATTEMPTED TO AIR ON COMCAST". THINGS LIKE THIS JUST DON'T HAPPEN TO WHITE ACTIVIST, THERE IS NO WHITE ACTIVIST IN THE COUNTRY WHO HAS EVER BEEN JAILED SIMPLY FOR "TALKING" ABOUT OUR NATIONS RACIST DRUG LAWS. "Anyone who belongs to NORML could be arrested if this were legal". Yet, reform groups like NORML said virtually nothing of my "unconstitutional" imprisonment".  Not even the NAACp would help me. The NAACP wouldn't help me because I'm not a Christian. (NAACP letter)Neither the NORML nor the NAACP were obligated to assist me in this, but WTF! Both looked the otherway as I was persecuted for speaking out on issue both these organizations profess to be championing. NORML calls for marijuana reform, NAACP calls for equality in drug law enforcement. I thank the NJ-ACLU and NEXTPLAYVIDEO.com
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DOCUMENTARY

About this illegal imprisonment

 


 
 

CLICK PICTURE
 



On April 3rd, 2002 I was released from prison in a parole program called (I.S.P.) - Intensive Supervision Program. I served 17 months of a ten year sentence after being denied a fail trial on a "marijuana offense'. The fact that I went to prison for a "marijuana charge' pissed me off and I openly spoke of the stupity of the "marijuana laws".  I advocate legalization of the sacrament of my faith. My ISP officers illegally ordered me not to talk to the press or about marijuana. This was a totally illegal order and I dis-regarded it as "religiously intolerant and racist". Just because you've been convicted of a crime doesn't mean you lose your "FREEDOM of SPEECH or RELIGION RIGHTS". As a inmate or a parolee you have the right to talk about what ever you want or practice any faith you want. My ISP Officer a "DO-GOODER" refused to accept that I wasn't a Christian and spoke of my own faith. As a way of giving him the finger I made the following three political ad's and contracted with COMCAST to air them. -- I was arrested for it.


BURLINGTON COUNTY TIMES
by Mike Mathis


8/23/2002

MARIJUANA ADVOCATE JAILED FOR ESPOUSING LEGALIZATION 

Marijuana legalization advocate Ed "njweedman" Forchion is in trouble with the law again. 

Forchion was jailed Monday night after he "alledgedly" violated the terms of the supervisory program in which he is enrolled, officials said yesterday. 

As a result, the Pemberton Township resident could be forced to return to prison to serve the remainder of his 10-year sentence on marijuana- related charges. 

Tom Bartlett, regional director for the Intensive Supervision Program, said Forchion violated provisions of the program by advocating marijuana use. 

Participants in the Intensive Supervision Program are released early from prison but must remain drug-free and abide by other regulations. 

"He agreed he was not going to promote marijuana use," Bartlett said.  "We tried to get him in compliance and he has not cooperated." 

In a telephone interview from the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly yesterday, Forchion said he was told he violated the terms of the program by taping three television commercials in which he advocated the legalization of marijuana. 

Forchion said he simply expressed his opinions on free speech and the nation's war on drugs in the commercials. 

"This is America," Forchion said.  "I have every right to say what I want to say.  ( Parole officials ) just don't want me to talk." 

Forchion has long maintained that his First Amendment rights are being violated because he cannot freely practice his faith as a Rastafarian or state his beliefs. 

Forchion was charged with helping his brother and another man pick up a shipment of 40 pounds of marijuana at Bellmawr Industrial Park in Bellmawr, Camden County, in November 1997.  The marijuana was shipped from a supplier in Arizona via Federal Express. 

Forchion was tried on charges of distributing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in October 2000 but pleaded guilty to those charges and two unrelated charges during his trial.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2000 and served 16 months in prison before he was admitted into the Intensive Supervision Program. 

Under the terms of the program, Forchion must refrain from smoking marijuana and must obtain a job.  He also must provide regular urine samples to demonstrate that he is staying clean. 

Forchion also cannot advocate the legalization of marijuana. 

In each of the three, 30-second commercials that he taped, Forchion wears a shirt bearing a marijuana leaf and stands in front of an American flag. 

In one of the commercials, he advocates free speech.  In another, he says that marijuana has medicinal benefits.  In the third, he criticizes the government's war on drugs. 

Forchion tried to buy time from Comcast to televise the commercials, but the cable company declined to air them. 

Comcast spokeswoman Nissa O'Mara said the commercials violated the company's advertising policy against promoting drug use.



SEE THE POLITICAL AD'S THAT WERE CENSORED YOURSELF!





COMMERCIAL 1




COMMERCIAL 2




COMMERCIAL 3

CLICK ON ABOVE PICTURES TO SEE POLITICAL ADS
I WAS IMPRISONED FOR MAKING THESE AD'S

 

FOR MAKING THESE "POLITICAL AD'S" THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY "JAILED ME"! PLEASE SEE THE DOCUMENTARY I MADE DISCUSSING THIS "UNCONSTITUTIONAL" IMPRISONMENT AND FEDERAL RELEASE! PLEASE READ THE NEWS ACCOUNTS (below) OF THIS POLITICAL IMPRISONMENT! And PLEASE WATCH the AD's!


 

After seeing the 8/15 and 8/17 TRENTONIAN stories (below) State ISP official Thomas Bartlett and ISP Officer Mike Ramirez presented an Arrest Petition and WARRANT before OCEAN COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE GIOVINE and despite the obvious violation of a citizens right to “FREE SPEECH” he signed it. ( SEE WARRANT)Also read the correspondence between Judge “JACK-ASS” GIOVINE and the WEEDMAN”! (GIOVINE LETTERS) -- This was a crime! They conspired to have me imprisoned to silence me, because they didn't like what I talked about!!! I was being legally SCREWED!

 

 

 




FORCHION Vs STATE OF NEW JERSEY (02-cv-4942)

( SEE FEDERAL RULING - "RELEASING NJWEEDMAN" )


In this case Federal Judge Irenas eventually ruled that I had the RIGHT to exercise free speech and the State of New Jersey had attempted to violated that RIGHT with my "imprisonment to silence me" and he ordered me released. My question to every lawyer, Politican, law enforcement Officer, Reporter and Editorial Board is why hasn't the New Jersey Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney charged these state officials with criminal deprivation of my "CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS". -- (SEE-HYPOCRITES) -


THIS WAS A CRIME AND HERE IS THE LAW VIOLATED

s 37, 18 U.S.C.A. Statute 88 s 19 18 U.S.C.A. section 51- "If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the U.S. Constitution or laws of the UNITED STATES, or because of his having so exercised the same, or if two or more persons go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any a RIGHT or privilege so secured they shall be fined not more than $5000 and imprisoned not more than ten years, and shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to any office, or place of honor, profit, or trust created by the U.S. Constitution or laws of the UNITED STATES".

I GOT SCREWED!

THESE STATE OFFICIALS SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED

 



 

 

NEWS ACCOUNTS

 

 

THE TRENTONIAN

(8/15/2002)

ON THE AIR: Weedman takes cause to television

 

 

Trentonian Photo/BOB CASTELLI 

 
Ed Forchion, better known as NJWEEDMAN, has taken his crusade to have marijuana legalized to the airwaves filming three television commercials to protest a court ruling that says he cannot speak out on the issue.

The NJWEEDMAN, Ed Forchion, has put down his bong, picked up a video camera and shot a trio of commercials for First Amendment rights. SEE COMMERCIALS HERE: LMP POLITICAL AD'S 

 

 

 

 

 

Forchion, who was recently released from prison after a 17-month stretch, was arrested on May 27 after speaking out against marijuana laws in front of the Burlington County Courthouse. 

Part of Forchion's parole deal, according to authorities, was that he could not openly promote the use of marijuana. 

So the dreadlocked Forchion, never one to shy away from a challenge, has fought back by shooting the commercials wearing a marijuana-leaf shirt while standing in front of an American flag. 

"The liberty this flag represents is in grave danger ...  the drug war is destroying our free society," he says in one spot. 

"Even doctors are openly challenging the myth marijuana is dangerous ...  who do you believe? Your doctor or your politician?" 

The spots, which can be seen by Comcast subscribers, will first run Saturday night on CNN during the first part of the 9/11-themed "America Remembers." 

Come September, the commercials will be running locally on MTV, CNN, the Comedy Channel, FOX News and Comcast Sports. 

Known nationwide, Forchion, a Browns Mills resident, has pulled many stunts to bring attention to the marijuana legalization movement. 

He's run for office, getting 2,706 votes for Burlington County freeholder and 1,983 votes during a congressional run. 

He also has lit up joints in courtrooms, a judge's office and, most famously, during a session of the state assembly. 

Forchion is also readying an appeal to his earlier marijuana conviction, and plans to use "jury nullification" as his defense. 

Jury nullification, in it's pure sense, is when a jury decides that a law is unjust, and thus refuses to convict. 

Forchion is pursuing the appeal despite the very real possibility that he could be sent back to prison for upwards of 20 years. 

Forchion has said in many interviews the reason he's willing to risk his freedom is for the legalization of marijuana and the upholding of the First Amendment. 

 


 
 

 

 

THE TRENTONIAN

(8/17/2002)

 'Weedman' TV Ad Yanked by Comcast

 

 

Ed "NJWEEDMAN" Forchion's commercials dealing with free speech and the first amendment have been barred from the airwaves. 

"Comcast killed it," Forchion said.  "They elected not to air them and they won't tell me why." 

But Comcast's vice-president of corporate communications, David Shane, offered an explanation. 

"There's a paragraph in our standard advertising contract that prohibits drugs or other illegal products from appearing on air via a commercial," Shane said.  "It's pretty cut-and-dried." 

But Forchion's commercials, which were seen by The Trentonian, do not have the dreadlocked Forchion advocating the use of marijuana. 

Instead, he talks about free speech, the First Amendment and how the war on drugs is a losing battle. 

"The Partnership for a Drug-Free America can put out their opinions on drugs," Forchion said.  "It's the same thing I'm doing, except from the opposite perspective." 

Forchion was recently let out of prison after a 17-month stint on marijuana charges. 

He was released into the Intensive Supervisory Parole system, which placed a load of restrictions on Forchion's behavior, including a clause that prohibits him from openly advocating the use of marijuana. 

A longtime pot activist, Forchion sought to circumvent that restriction by plopping himself in front of the Burlington County Courthouse earlier this summer and speaking about the drug war. 

For his troubles, he was arrested and spent five days in jail. 

"I wasn't advocating drugs," he said.  "I was simply stating my opinion." 

After his release, once again, from jail, Forchion decided to take his message to the airwaves. 

It was approved, and Forchion was busy raising the $5,000 needed to cover the costs of the spots. 

He receives donations through his website, njweedman.com

But Thursday, Forchion said, he was called into the cable giant's local Mount Laurel offices to be told the commercials would not run. 

"They have no legal ground to stand on," Forchion said.  "Now I just need a lawyer." 

In addition to trying to uphold the First Amendment, Forchion is also busy trying to upend the judicial system via jury nullification. 

Jury nullification, in it's purest sense, is when a jury decides that a law is unjust and refuses to convict on those grounds. 

It is a legal defense originally put in place by our founding fathers. 

But over the years, it has fallen out of disfavor with the legal system, and in New Jersey, it is illegal to inform a jury of their jury nullification rights. 

Forchion is appealing the decision in his earlier marijuana case, and if granted, plans on pursuing the nullification defense with the help of a Texas lawyer. 

Forchion will be risking more than just a point of law if he gets a new trial -- he also faces up to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty. 


 

 

8/17/2002

DESPITE THIS CENSORSHIP, I PLAN ON AIRING THESE EVENTUALLY. I'M NOW LOOKING FOR A LAWYER WILLING TO TAKE ON COMCAST. 

I STILL NEED THE FIUNDS TO AIR THE SPOTS SO PLEASE CONTRIBUTE SO WHEN WE ARE SUCCESSFUL WE CAN AIR THEM. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE AT:

http://www.njweedman.com/contrib.htm

 

 

 

 

 

EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA!!!
PRESS RELEASE 
August 19th, 2002

THE "NJWEEDMAN" WAS ARRESTED FOR MAKING THE 3 ANTI-DRUG WAR TV "POLITICAL AD'S" CITED ABOVE AS WELL AS FOR MAINTAINING THIS WEBSITE, BY STATE OFFICIALS.


DOESN'T FREE SPEECH APPLY TO 
AFRICAN-AMERICANS?


 

IS THIS STILL AMERICA?


  IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO SAY YOUR JUST DOING YOUR JOB OR FOLLOWING ORDERS! THAT'S WHAT THE NAZI'S CLAIMED, THAT'S WHAT COMMUNIST SOLDIERS CLAIM. BUT IN AMERICA WE HAVE THE "BILL OF RIGHTS", EVERY AMERICAN KID LEARNS IT. WHY HAVE THESE STATE OFFICALS IGNORED THE BILL OF RIGHTS!

 HELP OUT THE
"NJWEEDMAN"

Write or Call these local NJ state officals!

Be sure your mail indicates clearly to these authorities that "WE THE PEOPLE" ARE AWARE of Ed Forchions' plight and that WE CARE! Be sure to indicate that Americans still believe in the "BILL of RIGHTS" and the "War on some Drugs" is unjust and wrong and that we will not be puppets for the homeland. Everyone has the right to speak! WE as the beneficiaries of God's most favoured herb have a voice and unused, there is silence...The Constitution gives "we american's" the right to voice our dissent that's WEEDMAN was doing!

 

 

HARVEY GOLDSTEIN 
ISP-MANAGER 
117 JERSEY ST. BLDG. 6 
P.O. BOX 974 
TRENTON, NJ 
08625-0974


N.J. ATTORNEY GENERAL 
HARVEY GOLDSTEIN
c/o CHRIS JACOBSON-DAG 
HUGHES JUSTICE COMPLEX 
P.O. BOX 112 
TRENTON, N.J.
 
08625-0112 
file # 0204331

Assistant Attorney General
  Mr. Christopher Jacobsen
 Josepchr@law.dol.lps.state.nj.us
Hughes Justice Complex CN-112 
#25 Market St.
Trenton, N.J. 08625-0112

Assistant Attorney General 
Ms. Barbara J. Stoop
Stoopbar@law.dol.lps.state.nj.us
Hughes Justice Complex CN-112 
#25 Market St.
Trenton, N.J. 08625-0112


 

Lend Ed a hand by Writing these Politicians and asking them what happened to
Freedom of Speech in AMERICA? IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH no longer a Constitutional Guarantee? Even prisoners have the  1st Amendment RIGHT of:
"Freedom of Speech"!
Ed Forchion was locked away for "supposedly" for violating the terms of (ISP) Intensive Supervised Program, the crime: of produceing 3 anti-drug war Television commercials,
THAT WERE NEVER AIRED;
ALL ED FORCHION DID WAS speak the TRUTH about the war on SOME drugs.
SO WHO WAS HARMED BY THESE EVIL TV SPOTS?
IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST, AND THERE IS NO ONE AROUND, DOES ANYONE HEAR IT?

Is it because as a BLACK-MAN he would have great access and credibility before AFRICAN-AMERICANS; who are by a large the greatest victims of this so-called war on drugs. Was this a attempt to silence a future "POLITICAL FORCE"? THE TRUTH is everyone including ‘convicted persons’ have the right of “FREE SPEECH”. The U.S. SUPREME COURT has long held:prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the constitution.” TURNER Vs SAFLEY, 482 U.S. at 84, 107 S.Ct. at 2259, 96 L.Ed.2d at 75, thus ‘weedman’ expects the Federal Courts to release him eventually.


 

  ISP Manager (Harvey Goldstein) is stating that Ed violated the terms of his release however
Ed Forchion DID NOT advocate the use of marijuana or any other illegal substance! He only advocates the changing of the current Marijuana laws. How could that be illegal, isn’t that how laws are changed in America? It isn’t, citizens have a right to publicly dis-agree with a government policy!

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND THE STATE JUDGE(s) IN ED'S CASE, ARE ALSO VIOLATING  THE RIGHT TO A ‘SPEEDY TRIAL’ BY FILIBUSTERING THE AFTERNOON AWAY, SO ED COULD NOT PRESENT HIS DEFENSE THUS LEAVING HIM IN JAIL FOR LONGER!

  In America, the Land of the Free, It is a sad state of affairs when a person is jailed for free speech. What is next, the freedom to associate with whom we choose, OR TO MOVE ABOUT FREELY WITHOUT INTRUSION INTO OUR PERSONAL LIVES? The ACLU has asked permission to run the commercials that were never aired in a Nationwide Ad Campaign. These ad's will help to show ALL Americans, THE demise of FREEDOM of SPEECH IN AMERICA with the coming of the New World OrderExclamation point!

 

 


 

COMCAST SAY'S NO TO: 

NJWEEDMAN 

ANTI-DRUG WAR ADVERTISEMENTS
(click here to see  Ad's)

8/17/2002
 

SEE POT-TV SHOW

COMCAST CENSORSHIP


COMCAST SAY'S YES TO:

PRO-DRUG WAR ADVERTISEMENTS
(Click here to see story)

12/1/2003

 

 

The violation is against Ed Forchion's family
and his 1st Amendment right to FREE SPEECH!

 

 

"THE-NJWEEDMAN" ARRESTED FOR DARING TO ATTEMPT TO AIR ANTI-DRUG WAR COMMERCIALS

DRUGWAR.COM

No Freedom of Speech for Ed "NJWeedman" Forchion 

by Preston Peetfor Drugwar.com


Ed "NJWeedman" Forchion

August 20, 2002

Political candidate and outspoken marijuana legalization proponent Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion is under arrest again in New Jersey. He was picked up by police at his weekly parole meeting and booked into the Burlington County Jail sometime between 3 and 11 PM on Monday, August 19, 2002. Apparently the arrest was for violating his parole agreements by filming a series of pro-marijuana and First Amendment commercials. Under the terms of his parole, Forchion is not allowed to publicly discuss marijuana in any way. Ironically, the commercials, which had been slated to run in four counties in New Jersey on the Comcast Cable Company, were barred by Comcast management before they aired. 

At this time details about his charges are still a bit sketchy, as the Burlington County jail refuses to divulge any information about the case other than that he is in the jail, alleging that they are not allowed to "release any information to civilians.” (The Burlington Co. jail later amended this statement, telling Drugwar.com that we were entitled to have this information, but only from the warden, who has not returned repeated calls.)

Forchion has a long history of fighting for the right to use marijuana, and of paying the consequences for battling prohibition. He’d had a couple of minor brushes with the law over petty offenses in his early years (but compared to many of the corporate crooks still sitting pretty without seeing the inside of a jail cell, he’s an angel of propriety). In November of 1997, having built up a thriving marijuana smuggling business while working as a truck driver driving his own rig, he was arrested in a sting operation as he and his brother were trying to pick up a FedEx package containing 40 pounds of marijuana. This lead to both brothers, along with a third friend, being the first people tried in New Jersey under the then-new Omnibus Crime Act, which allows for anyone convicted of trafficking over 20 pounds of pot, even their first offence, to do 20 years in prison. 

While awaiting trial, Forchion undertook a campaign to bring marijuana reform into the public consciousness, as well as the right to Jury Nullification (which is illegal in New Jersey) running unsuccessfully for office in the US congress and for the office of Burlington County Freeholder, as the sole member of the Legalize Marijuana Party. Forchion also undertook civil disobedience, lighting up joints in the New Jersey State Assembly and at the Liberty Bell, among a dozen or so very public places. Two years, 15 hearings, and three judges later, Forchion accepted a plea bargain of 6 months in jail and 27 months in New Jersey’s Intensive Supervised Parole program, after refusing to rat out his marijuana connections. Reporting to the Riverfront Prison in Camden, NJ, on Jan. 12, 2001, (where prison guards immediately found 10 joints secreted within the sole of his sneaker), Forchion was informed he was not yet eligible for ISP, due to his “extensive” criminal history. He did 15 months inside before finally getting released on April 3, 2002 into ISP. He almost immediately filed an appeal of his sentence, which if he looses he faces up to 20 years in prison.

“I'm still fighting this conviction,” Forchion wrote Drugwar.com in an email a few hours before his arrest Monday. “My parole officer (Tom Bartlett) also ordered me not to talk to the press. Which I regarded as a illegal order. Because I knew such a order not to talk to the press was illegal I gave a few interviews anyway. On May 27th, I stood outside the Burlington County Courthouse and protested my not being able to see my daughter because of the Religion [Rastafari] I have chosen. I passed out fliers and was interviewed by the Burlington County Times and the Trentonian.” On the following day he was placed under house arrest, then was arrested on June 6 and sat in jail for four days for speaking to the newspapers.

“I was livid,” writes Forchion, “this was totally un-American. So I contacted Peter Christopher of http://www.nextplayvideo.com/ (Activist video) and asked him if he could help me by making a couple of First Amendment commercials for me. He did, we made three. I went to Comcast here in Mt Laurel, NJ, and presented them. They (Comcast NJ) accepted them, had me sign a contract and I gave them a deposit. The office manager actually liked them.”

“In our standard advertising contract, there is a paragraph that prohibits habit forming drugs and illegal products from appearing in advertising spots. so it is a cut and dried situation for the company,” said David Shane, Comcast's vice-president of corporate communications. “The spots clearly violate the agreement that he signed, so as a result we returned his $100 deposit, and the company is not running the spots.” 

When it was noted that Comcast takes money from, and airs commercials by both the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Shane said, “They don’t promote the use of habit forming drugs or drug paraphernalia. Let me read you the contract, the clause in the contract. ‘The following material is explicitly prohibited. Drugs/illegal products, including habit forming drugs, drug paraphernalia, or establishments that promote these products. Also included is advertising for a product of service which is illegal or has no legitimate use in the country, state, or municipality where systems franchise area [sic] are located.' So it’s pretty clear these spots violate that portion of the contract.” 

Although it is clear that marijuana has many different legitimate uses despite the US prohibitionist rhetoric and laws to the contrary, and may or may not be habit forming for some people, Shane stuck to his guns, but did not mention whether or not pharmaceutical companies which market habit forming drugs on Comcast have to abide by this same agreement. He did note that “Anybody who advertises on Comcast signs this standard advertising contract. Again, anything promoting the use of habit forming drugs or drug paraphernalia are prohibited on Comcast.” 

“I’m so fucking mad I could spit,” Peter Christopher told Drugwar.com when contacted about Comcast‘s decision and Forchion’s subsequent arrest. “We’re trying to get activists to do stuff like this. Sponsor some public access, shoot their own video. It took about 4 hours one afternoon at Ed’s house. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how quickly I edited them. We wrote them for 30 seconds slots, timed them, and tried them. Actually the commercials were written and edited by a friend of mine. We’re trying to influence people to come out and work with us. I think they will.” Christopher points out how the system has really gone after Forchion, because he represents the counter-culture, he is very loud about his beliefs, and is not afraid of the repercussions that have resulted for standing up for what he believes is right. 

“These things go unchallenged every day,” says Christopher. “Guys get tossed around, nobody does anything about it. Why? I think a lot of it is fear. I’m going to tell you this, and you think about it. It may have never occurred to you. The problem is the system has turned too many people. Four out of five people tell them everything they want to know. How can you go from that situation to being an activist? How can you look other people in the face and help them change the laws when you’ve told on them? Eighty percent of the people arrested tell all. Those are the statistics, they don’t lie.” But Forchion himself refused to roll over and tell all.

On Monday night, Forchion reported for his weekly parole meeting. At the end, everyone was told they could go except Forchion, according to Christopher, who spoke at length with Forchion later that night. Forchion was taken into custody, during which his new commercials were mentioned as the reason his parole was being violated, then taken to the Burlington County jail where he now sits.

Forchion does not yet have a lawyer assisting him. He is also seeking help in obtaining enough money to run the commercials in any venue he can get them on. 

“The War on Drugs is being fought by two sides, the Government side and the winning side,” Forchion points out. “Apparently Comcast only wants the government side’s opinions expressed. This is absolute censorship. Yes, I had a shirt on with a "weed-leaf". Comcast airs far worst! They aired my campaign commercials three years ago and in those I had a bong and a fake weed leaves hanging out my suit jacket pocket. It wasn't the shirt, it was the words they didn't like. I was questioning the War on Drugs and what it is doing to the principals of freedom this country was founded on. This is an example." 

 

 

 

 

BURLINGTON COUNTY TIMES

8/23/2002

MARIJUANA ADVOCATE JAILED FOR ESPOUSING LEGALIZATION OF DRUG 

Marijuana legalization advocate Ed "njweedman" Forchion is in trouble with the law again. 

Forchion was jailed Monday night after he violated the terms of the supervisory program in which he is enrolled, officials said yesterday. 

As a result, the Pemberton Township resident could be forced to return to prison to serve the remainder of his 10-year sentence on marijuana- related charges. 

Tom Bartlett, regional director for the Intensive Supervision Program, said Forchion violated provisions of the program by advocating marijuana use. 

Participants in the Intensive Supervision Program are released early from prison but must remain drug-free and abide by other regulations. 

"He agreed he was not going to promote marijuana use," Bartlett said.  "We tried to get him in compliance and he has not cooperated." 

In a telephone interview from the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly yesterday, Forchion said he was told he violated the terms of the program by taping three television commercials in which he advocated the legalization of marijuana. 

Forchion said he simply expressed his opinions on free speech and the nation's war on drugs in the commercials. 

"This is America," Forchion said.  "I have every right to say what I want to say.  ( Parole officials ) just don't want me to talk." 

Forchion has long maintained that his First Amendment rights are being violated because he cannot freely practice his faith as a Rastafarian or state his beliefs. 

Forchion was charged with helping his brother and another man pick up a shipment of 40 pounds of marijuana at Bellmawr Industrial Park in Bellmawr, Camden County, in November 1997.  The marijuana was shipped from a supplier in Arizona via Federal Express. 

Forchion was tried on charges of distributing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in October 2000 but pleaded guilty to those charges and two unrelated charges during his trial.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2000 and served 16 months in prison before he was admitted into the Intensive Supervision Program. 

Under the terms of the program, Forchion must refrain from smoking marijuana and must obtain a job.  He also must provide regular urine samples to demonstrate that he is staying clean. 

Forchion also cannot advocate the legalization of marijuana. 

In each of the three, 30-second commercials that he taped, Forchion wears a shirt bearing a marijuana leaf and stands in front of an American flag. 

In one of the commercials, he advocates free speech.  In another, he says that marijuana has medicinal benefits.  In the third, he criticizes the government's war on drugs. 

Forchion tried to buy time from Comcast to televise the commercials, but the cable company declined to air them. 

Comcast spokeswoman Nissa O'Mara said the commercials violated the company's advertising policy against promoting drug use. 

 

TRENTONIAN

8/31/2002

Day 5 of WEEDMAN hunger strike!

Ed "NJWEEDMAN" Forchion, sitting in Burlington County Jail for allegedly violating terms of his parole, has been on a hunger strike for the last five days

 

 

According to a friend of Forchion's, the marijuana advocate has lost nearly 18 pounds while he refuses to eat.

Forchion was thrown in the clink last week after he sought to put three commercials on Comcast's cable system.

The commercials dealt with First Amendment issues and the war on drugs.

They do not, however, advocate the use of marijuana.

But that's what members of the Intensive Supervisory Program said he did.

ISP is a heightened state of parole. Forchion was put into it after 17 months in prison for transporting 25 pounds of pot into the state.

As part of Forchion's deal, the powers-that-be forbade him from advocating the use of marijuana.

They claim the commercials, which never aired, were reason enough to arrest Forchion.

Now that he's back in jail, Forchion faces the possibility of finishing up the 10-year term he was originally sentenced to.

While Forchion refuses to eat, his story has gone to the front page of the monthly marijuana bible, High Times magazine.

On their website, the magazine has an in-depth article about Forchion and his problems.

Videos of the commercials that landed Forchion back in jail can be seen on the site.

-- JEFF EDELSTEIN 

©The Trentonian 2003

THE PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY

9/4/2003

In the Jackpot Again 

The Weedman lands back in the pokey for questioning pot laws.

JONATHAN VALANIA (jvalania@philadelphiaweekly.com

Ed Forchion, aka the New Jersey Weedman, is back behind bars for allegedly violating the terms of his parole by trying to get a series of anti-drug-war commercials aired on CNN. As per the terms of his parole--a sort of double secret probation called Intensive Supervised Parole (ISP)--Forchion is prohibited from publicly advocating the use or marijuana. Last April Forchion was released from prison, where he was serving a 10-year sentence on marijuana distribution and possession charges, and placed on ISP. 

Forchion's latest incarceration--the second time this summer he's been put behind bars for speaking to the media or airing his views on drug laws--stems from his attempt in early August to book airtime with Comcast Cable for a series of commercial spots that question the constitutionality and scientific validity of the criminalization of marijuana. 

Forchion was hoping to run the ads locally during CNN's America Remembers--Part 1, a look back at Sept. 11, but the spots never got past Comcast's legal department, which deemed them in violation of company policy against ads that advocate drug use. 

In the spots, Forchion never encourages or advocates the recreational use of marijuana. Instead, he argues that the war on drugs is unconstitutional. In all three spots, Forchion stands before an American flag, goateed and dreadlocked, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with marijuana leaves. 

Prior to Comcast's refusal to air the spots, Forchion, who has been effective in advancing his opinions through the media, told both the Trentonian and the Burlington County Times that the ads were set to run. It was through these newspaper stories that Tom Bartlett, regional director of the ISP program, learned about the commercials and promptly had Forchion arrested on Aug. 19 and sent to New Jersey's Burlington County Jail. 

"He agreed that he would not promote marijuana use," Bartlett told the Burlington County Times. "We tried to get him in compliance, and he has not cooperated." 

An ISP parole hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17. "This is like Alice in Wonderland: sentence first, ISP hearing later," says Forchion's attorney, John Vincent Saykanic, who has filed a motion for bail. 

Forchion began a hunger strike on Aug. 26 and vows to continue it till his release. He told PW through an intermediary that he's concerned that prison officials will start force-feeding him. 

 

TRENTONIAN

8/19/2002

A FEDERAL CASE:

"WEEDMAN" seeks releif from higher court

The case of Ed "NJWEEDMAN" Forchion is headed to federal court.

Believing that he is being held in jail unconstitutionally, Forchion petitioned the federal district court in Camden for a "writ of habeas corpus" -- lawyer-speak for a federal judge to determine whether an inmate is being imprisoned lawfully.

Judge Joseph Irenas accepted Forchion's petition, and now the state has until Oct. 28 to explain to the judge why Forchion is sitting in the clink

"The judge clearly saw something legitimate," said John Furlong, a local lawyer and expert in these matters. "He [Forchion] made it through the door, which puts him head and shoulders above everyone else."

Furlong explained that the federal courts are deluged with writs of habeas corpus, and very few get accepted.

"He's moving in the right direction," Furlong said. "He's got a leg up."

Forchion has been stewing the Burlington County Jail for a month.

He was arrested Aug. 18 after filming three commercials that the state claims advocated the use of marijuana.

The commercials, as seen by The Trentonian, dealt with First Amendment issues and the war on drugs, and did not explicitly advocate the use of marijuana.

But that's what members of the Intensive Supervisory Program said he did.

ISP is a heightened state of parole Forchion was put into it after 17 months in prison for transporting 25 pounds of pot into the state.

As part of Forchion's deal, ISP allegedly forbade him from advocating the use of marijuana, though Forchion claims no paperwork on such a restriction exists.

Tom Bartlett, the South Jersey head of the ISP, said it would be "inappropriate" to discuss any matter regarding Forchion when asked the details of Forchion's ISP deal. 

On Tuesday, Forchion was supposed to appear before a three-judge panel in Hunterdon County Court.

The hearing was meant to determine if Forchion did in fact break the terms of the ISP deal.

Witnesses were in court, Forchion's lawyer was ready to go, and the judges said they would hold the hearing for last, supposedly so they could get a firmer handle on the case.

The only problem with the hearing was that it never took place -- the state failed to arrange transportation for Forchion from Burlington to Flemington.

"It was an honest mix-up," Bartlett told the judges. "The writ was never sent to the Burlington County Jail. We tried to make arrangements to get him here, but it's physically impossible."

No new date for the ISP hearing was announced. 

DRUGWAR.COM11/20/2002

The Return of the Star Chamber-
the troubling similarities between Ed Forchion and William Penn. 

by incarcerated US political prisoner 
Edward Forchion, a.k.a. NJWeedman.com


(photo from NJWeedman.com

posted at DrugWar.com Nov. 20, 2002

(for background on Forchion's case, please see No Freedom of Speech for Ed "NJWeedman" Forchion

Although most Americans don’t know it, many of the rights we as Americans have were derived as a result of the English trial in 1670 of William Penn. England at that time had a “government religion,” the Church of England. Penn was a Quaker, a member of an illegal religion. Penn was ordered by the government to not talk about his beliefs and they shut down his church. When he defiantly spoke of his beliefs anyway he was arrested. Penn used a tactic called Jury Nullification to be acquitted of the charges. The jury was tried for acquitting Penn by a court called the Star Chamber, which couldn’t be appealed. 

Eventually, not only was Penn’s acquittal upheld but the jury was freed and England’s dreaded Star Chamber was outlawed. Citizens were given the right to religious freedom, to assemble, trial by a jury, a public trail and the assistance of counsel for defense. These new found rights were incorporated into English Common Law and later crossed the Atlantic (Penn established the colony Pennsylvania- Penn's Woods- having been given Pennsylvania by King Charles II of England in 1681.) becoming the backbone of the US Bill of Rights. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendments are direct results of the William Penn case.

Today in America the War on Some Drugs and Users has eroded most of these rights. We now even have illegal religions. I belong to one, Rastafari. The 4th Amendment is null and void, and the 6th and 7th Amendments are unrecognizable in the criminal justice system due to forced plea bargains. The 6th Amendment right to assistance of counsel for defense has been voided by State appointed lawyers who protect the State from citizens instead of how they were originally mandated: to protect citizens from abuse of government. The 6th and 7th Amendment rights to a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers are now a rarity.

In my original trial in 2000, I used Jury Nullification as a weapon and was successful to a point. I forced the State to offer me a light sentence, with the threat that my jury wouldn’t convict me. I was offered 3-6 months in prison, followed by 16 months in a program called Intensive Supervision Parole. A month into my 3-6 months, ISP informed me I was ineligible: The State had pulled a “bait and switch.” I was now stuck in prison with a 10 year sentence.

From prison I began fighting for a new trial, trying to withdraw my plea since the State had renigged on its end of the so-called bargain. The local press began reacting to my letters from prison, writing stories based on my claims. Suddenly on April 3, 2002, after serving 17 months, the State released me into ISP, rather than have me restart my Jury Nullification tactics at trial. 

Immediately upon getting into ISP, I discovered that instead of using ISP as the Intensive Supervision Program, the State intended to use it as the Inmate Silence Program. I was ordered not to talk about my religion, not to talk to the press, or petition for redress. I felt like a modern day William Penn. My ISP officer ordered me to dismantle the sanctuary I had built in my home. I viewed this as akin to William Penn having his church boarded up the English government. Similar to William Penn I defiantly refused to shut up, and was rearrested for complaining about my unconstitutional treatment. I was held for 5 days, from June 6-10, until I agreed by threat not to espouse my beliefs again publicly.

Upon release though, I decided to go even more public, similar to how Penn held a public sermon after being told not to. Following the philosophy of the Great Rastafarian prophet and reggae singer Bob Marley, who said “stand up for you rights, don’t give up the fight, keep up the fight,” I made 3 anti-Drug War commercials that didn’t directly espouse my beliefs but did call for the end of the War on Some Drugs and Users which makes my religion as illegal as Quakerism was for William Penn.

When the Trentonian newspaper conducted an interview with me on August 15-17 about these commercials, I was arrested again on August 19, 2002 for 1), making the commercials, and 2) for maintaining a website, NJWeedman.com. ISP officials claimed I was advocating and promoting illegal drug use. So now I’ve been held in Burlington County Jail for the last 3 months awaiting an ISP panel hearing. This panel’s decision, like the Star Chamber of William Penn’s era, cannot be appealed. So now even the dreaded Star Chamber has re-emerged due to the War on Some Drugs and Users.

The state is holding me to prevent me from espousing my beliefs or teaching the public about Jury Nullification. I have little doubt that today’s Star Chamber (ISP panel) will send me to prison.

I have filed a “Writ of Habeas Corpus” with the Federal Court in Camden, New Jersey, (02-04331) but as yet the federal judge has failed to free me as the English did William Penn and the jury that acquitted him. I have just learned that ISP will be hearing my case on December 4th, 2002, in Morris County Superior Court, Morristown, New Jersey.

STAR-LEDGER
 

'WEEDMAN' FAILS IN EFFORT TO GET OUT OF JAIL 
by, Matthew Reilly staff writer

The self-proclaimed "New Jersey Weedman" headed back to jail yesterday
after failing to gain approval for readmission into a stringent early
parole program.

The three-judge Intensive Supervision Program panel that met yesterday
adjourned without reaching a decision in the case of Edward Forchion,
convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.

The panel did not announce when the matter would be resumed, but until
then, Forchion will remain in jail in Burlington County, where he has been
since he was removed from the program.

Forchion had been admitted to the ISP in April after serving 16 months of
a 10-year sentence. He was returned to jail after allegedly violating
terms of his admission into the program by, among other things, advocating
the legalization of marijuana. He allegedly filmed several public service
announcements -- which never aired -- favoring changes in the state's drug
laws and gave interviews to newspapers on various subjects.

Forchion, accompanied by two lawyers, public defender Craig Pierson and
attorney John Vincent Saykanic, chose to represent himself yesterday in a
hearing before the ISP panel in the Morris County Courthouse.

Thomas Russo, representing the program, said Forchion was charged with 16
violations of the terms of his release. In addition to the marijuana
advocacy violations with which he is charged, Russo said Forchion failed
to make payments of various fines and court costs, failed to adhere to the
conditions of his home confinement and failed to be at work when required.

"I dispute the allegations that I violated numerous conditions of my ISP,"
Forchion told the judges. "I violated no conditions of the ISP." He said
he has never tested positive for drugs while in the program.

"I enrolled in the program, I wish to remain in the program, but the
program has treated me in a very unconstitutional manner," he said.

Thomas Bartlett, a regional supervisor for the ISP, said Forchion agreed
not to advocate the use of marijuana as one of the 30 conditions of his
entry to the program.

In cross-examining Bartlett, Forchion sparred with him over the difference
between advocating the "use" of marijuana, which is what he agreed to, and
advocating changes in the state's drug laws.

Forchion says he never espoused the "use" of marijuana after his release
into the ISP and asked whether he has lost his First Amendment rights
because he is a convict.

"Do you believe the First Amendment does not apply to convicted felons?"
he asked Bartlett.

"I believe you entered a voluntary program and agreed to abide by the
conditions of that program," Bartlett said.

The New Jersey Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a
friend-of-the-court brief saying ISP officials found Forchion's advocacy
positions were a "substantial factor" in revoking his ISP status.

Forchion, of Pemberton Township, Burlington County, pleaded guilty in
September 2000 after he was charged with helping his brother and another
person pick up 40 pounds of marijuana that had been shipped via Federal
Express to Camden County in November 1997. He was sentenced to 10 years as
part of a plea bargain, which he said he accepted only because he was
promised admission into ISP.

Forchion, who is a Rastafarian, has said he used marijuana for religious
purposes as well as medicinal benefits. He says smoking pot alleviates his
asthma, although he hasn't smoked since he began serving his sentence.

Forchion was once escorted from the New Jersey Assembly and arrested after
he lit up a joint in the chamber; he also smoked a joint in the office of
Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.)

Copyright Newark Morning Ledger Co.

 
 
 
 

 

PRESS RELEASE

12/04/02 'NJWEEDMAN' fails in effort to get out of jailSACRAMENT
Quote from Ed concerning his trial, "The trial was a farce & mockery of justice. The state was allowed  to present 1/2 of its case against me and I do not get a chance to rebut until the state completes its case. That means on January 17th, if the state takes all day to complete its case I still won't get to present my case that day. This again is a GROSS VIOLATION of my right to due process and a speedy trial".

New Trial date set for JANUARY 17th 2003
Be there and show your support for free speech





 

 

  CANNABIS CULTURE MAGAZINE

                      ARTICLE

 

    HIGHTIMES MAGAZINE

                ARTICLE

 





 

Subject: Notice of Ed's hearings
On 1/17/03 at 9:00a.m. at the Hunterdon County Justice Center, 65 Park Ave., Courtroom #1, Flemington, NJ Edward (NJ Weedman) Forchion will for the 3rd time, be scheduled to stand before the Intensive Supervison Program Resentencing Panel. He has been held since 8/19/02 in the Burlington County Jail without any LEGITIMATE cause. The ISP authorities , Harvey Goldstein, Tom Bartlett, Warren Campbell and Mike Ramirez are trying to get the 3 Judge panel to violate Edward's parole because he continues to exercise his Constitutional Right, (to think), of advocating an end to the Government's War on Drugs.


 
 
 
 

____________________________________________

The U.S. DISTRICT COURT of NEW JERSEY (Camden, NJ) has scheduled a"WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS" Hearing before JUDGE J. IRENAS
December 31, 2002 New Year’s Eve
 

This is a violation against Ed Forchion's and his 1st Amendment right to FREE SPEECH, this is about the "BILL of RIGHTS" not marijuana! Ed Forchion is Hoping that Protesters against the FAILED DRUG WAR, the Prison-Military-Industrial Complex which uses inmates as slaves, or anyone who cares about FREEDOM of SPEECH, and the right as an adult to choose which medicine or drug one ingests into their own bodies, to show up in force!



 

 

FEDERAL CASE BEGINS (12/31/2003)

 

 

Burlington County Times

'Weedman' still waiting for ruling

By MIKE MATHIS

CAMDEN - Just as he has every day for the past five months, Ed "njweedman" Forchion last night found himself locked up in the Burlington County Jail. 

After a three-hour hearing in federal court in Camden, a judge postponed a decision on whether the marijuana legalization advocate should be released from custody while he argues before three other judges why he should be readmitted to an early-parole program. 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph E. Irenas said he would make his decision in several days. 

The Pemberton Township resident has been jailed since August, when he was accused of violating provisions of a court-administered Intensive Supervision Program that allows participants to be released from prison early on the condition they remain drug-free and abide by other regulations. 

Forchion violated one provision of the program - that he refrain from publicly advocating the legalization of marijuana - by taping three television commercials in which he called for the abolition of the nation's drug laws, program officials said. The commercials never aired. 

Court officials have dropped that charge against Forchion, but maintain he violated other requirements of the program. They include his failure to abide by home confinement and his failure to make payments toward court-imposed obligations, he said. 

If a three-judge panel sitting in Flemington, Hunterdon County, believes Forchion violated the other parts of the supervision program, he could still be forced to return to state prison to serve the remainder of his 10-year sentence on marijuana-related charges. 

Two hearings in the matter have been held. A third is scheduled for next week. 

New Jersey Deputy Attorney General James Harris told Ire-nas during yesterday's hearing Forchion's readmission into the program while he publicly advocated marijuana use would undermine the efforts of other participants who are working hard to kick their drug habits. 

"He's advocating the legalization of something that is illegal," Harris said. "He doesn't understand the difference bet-ween his First Amendment rights and his responsibilities (to abide by the rules of ISP.)

"Mr. Forchion has an absolute right to say whatever he wants," he added. "He doesn't have the right to be in this program." 

But Ed Barocas, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey who was one of two lawyers representing Forchion at the hearing, was adamant in his belief that Forchion's participation in the program should not preclude him from exercising his right to free speech.

"Mr. Forchion is not going to change his mind," he said. "Denying him the right to speak on the case hasn't changed his mind. He is the victim of a constitutional right (to speak)." 

Forchion was charged with helping his brother and another man pick up a shipment of 40 pounds of marijuana at Bell-mawr Industrial Park on Nov. 24, 1997.

The marijuana was shipped from a supplier in Arizona via Federal Express. 

He was tried on charges of distributing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in October 2000 but pleaded guilty to those charges and two unrelated charges during his trial. 

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2000 and served 16 months before he was admitted into the supervision program. 

In the program, Forchion must refrain from smoking marijuana and obtain a job. He also must provide urine samples to show he is staying clean. 

He also cannot advocate the legalization of marijuana. 

Forchion has long maintained his First Amendment rights are being violated because he cannot freely practice his Rastafarian faith or state his beliefs. He has said exercising his religion involves smoking marijuana. 

 

 

PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE

1/3/2003

Many judges favor revamp of drug laws



Linn Washington , Tribune Correspondent
Linn Washington is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism at Temple University.
 
 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph E. Irenas revealed a startling fact in his Camden courtroom on New Year's Eve that most champions of America's War on Drugs want to keep secret: many federal judges favor a drastic overhaul of the nation's ineffective and often discriminatory anti-drug laws. 

During a hearing Tuesday on a drug law related case, Irenas stated he was surprised to discover the number of conservative federal judges opposed to current drug laws. 

"I attended a judicial conference out West a few years ago and most of the judges there were wearing cowboy hats, cowboy boots and string ties.  Most of these judges were appointed by President Reagan and were very conservative," Irenas noted, "But to a person, everyone said drug laws need to be changed." 

While making comments questioning the current drug laws, Irenas noted that when President Bush appointed him to the federal bench in 1992 there were 32,000 people in federal prisons. 
"Today, there are 132,000 in federal prisons and 60% of this increase is for drug convictions. African-Americans comprise a majority of the drug offenders in federal prisons," Irenas stated. 

"America has more persons in prison today than South Africa at the height of apartheid and Russia during the height of communism under Stalin," Irenas said, also listing a number of political leaders who advocate changes in drug laws. 
Criticism of drug laws by federal judges is well known in legal circles and widely posted online yet is rarely publicized on network television and in mainstream media sources accessed by the majority of the American public. 

A number of federal judges, liberals and conservatives, have resigned from their lifetime appointments instead of imposing long mandatory sentences required by drug laws.  Many judges feel mandatory-minimum drug laws are unfair because they generally strip jurists of their authority to craft sentences to match a defendant's actual criminal culpability. 

Laws mandate judges to sentence drug users and low-level dealers to long sentences while freeing major drug dealers who cut deals with prosecutors.  Judges have criticized current drug laws as expensive, largely ineffective, and damaging to American civil liberties. 

"These unwise sentencing policies which put men and women into prisons for years, not only ruin lives of prisoners and often their family members, but also drains the American taxpayers of funds which can be measured in the billions of dollars," said Chief Judge of the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Myron Bright. 

However, 8th Circuit Judge Diana Murphy, chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, claims that the judges critical of mandatory laws are mainly "senior judges who have never reconciled themselves to change." (Senior judges are retired judges who still hear cases.) 

Federal Judge Joseph Irenas made his comments about drug laws during a hearing on a matter involving Robert Edward Forchion, the self-styled “New Jersey Weedman.”  Forchion is suing New Jersey authorities, charging them with violating his First Amendment rights when they removed him from a special parole program in August 2002 and returned him to prison. 
New Jersey parole authorities claim Forchion violated terms of his release largely by peacefully protesting against a judge depriving him of visiting his daughter due to Forchion's advocacy for reforming marijuana laws and for making an anti-marijuana law commercial that never aired. 

Forchion contends that the written terms of his parole did not specifically prohibit his marijuana law reform advocacy.  Judge Irenas stated that Forchion has complied with the terms of his parole requiring employment and he has repeatedly passed his twice-weekly urine tests showing he is not using marijuana. 

"The truth is [Forchion] is not a menace to society. He is a right to participate in First Amendment dialogue," Irenas said, noting that evidence indicates the "New Jersey Department of Corrections is wizzed-off because of his advocacy.” 

Irenas scheduled a Jan. 21 "show cause" hearing where New Jersey authorities must present evidence to show they did not remove Forchion from parole primarily for his constitutionally protected drug law reform advocacy.   This federal court hearing is four days after Forchion will find out whether he will be readmitted to the Intensive Supervised Parole program when he appears before a three-judge ISP panel.   This Jan. 17 ISP panel hearing date is a continuation of a twice delayed hearing initially scheduled for Sept 2002. 

Forchion remains incarcerated at the Burlington County jail on under the disputed parole violation.   Forchion plead guilty in Sept 2000 for his involvement in a 1997 scheme to help his brother pick up 40 pounds of marijuana shipped to New Jersey from Arizona. He thought the guilty plea included a deal for immediate ISP release but prosecutors contended no deal existed and Forchion served 18-months in prison before receiving ISP parole. 

Renowned legal scholar Richard Posner, the chief Judge of the 7th Circuit Appeals Court, has voiced his support for the legalization of marijuana.

"Prison terms in America have become appallingly long," Judge Posner said, "especially for conduct that, arguably should not be criminal at all."

Linn Washington is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism at Temple University.

Editorial 1/14/2003

Philadelphia Tribune

NJ AUTHORITIES DESTROY 'FREEDOMS' AS SURELY AS SADDAM
By Linn Washington Jr.
 

The curious case of Ed Forchion constitutes a classic clash between rights and rules in America.

 Forchion faces a return to a 10-year prison sentence because New Jersey Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) authorities claim Forchion's exercise of his constitutional rights has violated a number of their rules for parole.

 These 'unwritten' rules include forbidding Forchion from talking to reporters. Forchion - the self-defined 'NJ Weedman' - is an audacious advocate for the legalization of marijuana and an ardent opponent of America's War on
Drugs.

 Forchion has certainly irritated governmental officials but, as a federal judge recently noted, Forchion is 'not a menace!"

 In many ways, ISP's campaign to cancel Forchion's parole and return him to a prison cell is an important test case for the level of freedom that is really respected in America, particularly during this era when America wages wars abroad in the name of freedom.

 The seminal First Amendment to the US Constitution protects freedoms of speech, religion, press, and the right to protest government actions.  The NJ State Constitution contains comparable rights in its Article 1 - Rights and Privileges section.

 The First Amendment particularly protects the exercise of rights for unpopular causes as long as exercise of protected rights does not cause imminent danger or promotes illegal activity.

 Evidence indicates Forchion's exercise of constitutional rights does not promote illegal activity and his peaceful protests certainly are not causing imminent dangers like riots.

 NJ federal Judge Joseph Irenas recently indicated ISP's rule violation actions against Forchion strongly exhibit retaliation for Forchion's exercise of his lawful First Amendment rights. 

 Two weeks ago, Judge Irenas ordered NJ authorities to produce evidence showing ISP is not retaliating against Forchion, during a hearing scheduled for Irenas' courtroom next week.

 Marijuana is certainly an important public policy issue of our times extending beyond the law enforcement arena into areas like medical compassion and the very nature of democracy in America.

 Nationwide, authorities spend $9-billion annually waging war on marijuana at a time when authorities claim insufficient funds exist to provide adequate health care and/or extend meaningful tax cuts beyond the wealthy into the middle class.

 In 2001 alone, authorities nationwide arrested 723,627 for marijuana law violations with 88% of those arrests being for simple possession of this substance that numerous federal reports state is not harmful.

 Federal authorities are staging military-style raids on health clinics in states like California where voters have overwhelmingly approved referendums approving the medical use of marijuana for patients suffering painfully debilitating diseases.

 In October 2002, a federal appeals court backed Congress blocking DC residents from even voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical uses.

 These actions by Congress and the courts crushing fundamental voting rights in the very headquarters of American democracy probably brought smiles to those "evil-doers" who our leaders proclaim hate America because of its "freedoms."

 Many - including law enforcement officials - support decriminalization of marijuana yet NJ's ISP authorities contend Ed Forchion has NO right to express similar sentiments.

The reason why Forchion is under ISP supervision results from his Sept 2000 guilty plea for a 1997 marijuana scheme. The reason why Forchion felt forced to plead guilty results from repeated violations of his fundamental legal rights from arrest through trial, according to a federal appeal prepared by Clifton, NJ attorney, John Vincent Saykanic.

 This appeal contends police violated legal rules in their arrest procedures, prosecutors violated legal rules by improperly withholding evidence, and judges violated rules by threatening to place Forchion in a mental institution to force Forchion to accept a public defender instead of permitting Forchion his legal right to represent himself.  Further, prosecutors, public defenders, and a judge denied Forchion his right to inform the jury of the jury's right to acquit irrespective of the evidence if the jury felt a conviction was unjust - a legal principle called jury nullification.

"This pattern of constitutional violations constitutes a farce and mockery of the judicial system," Saykanic's appeal states. Forchion entered ISP in April 2002 after nearly 18-months in prison following prosecutors reneging on an alleged agreement to release Forchion into ISP after 6-months in prison.

 The thirty rules in Forchion's written ISP agreement contain no prohibitions against talking to reporters, holding protests, or advocating changes in drug laws.  Yet, ISP authorities jailed Forchion on August 18, 2002 for violating
their unwritten rules despite his compliance with ISP's written rules like not using drugs…which Forchion claims violates his religious right to use marijuana as part of the ritual of his Rastafarian religion.

This Friday Forchion's case takes another turn with a scheduled ISP hearing where state judges will rule on the validity of those parole violations.

 Forchion did not receive his originally scheduled September 17, 2002 ISP hearing because of an 'inadvertent mistake' that left him in a cell while other ISP violators in the Burlington County jail were taken to that hearing.

 In the larger scheme of things, Forchion's constitutional freedoms fight with ISP arguably is one flea on a large elephant. However, the 12-million marijuana arrests since the late 1960s coupled with the escalating billions spent ineffectively fighting to preserve inappropriate prohibition shows this elephant suffers a serious flea infestation.

 The Drug War's blatant disregard for constitutional rights forms a litany of wrongs that renders America hypocritical in the eyes of many. 

-THE END-


Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at
Temple University.


 
 

 

Jan. 17th 2003 "STATE ISP HEARING A MOCKERY"

 

 


 
 

 

 

Attorney General PETER HARVEY’s  "justice" department has been aiding, (and abetting), the ISP authorities in this unconstitutional mockery of JUSTICE. Federal Judge Irenas held a hearing for Edward on 12/31/02 which was very well reported by Professor of Journalism at Temple University, Linn Washington, (story included in the attachment). Judge Irenas has scheduled a follow-up on 1/21/03 in the Camden Federal Court .Again, an appeal is made for all Freedom loving citizens to be a witness at both these venues. If any information is needed please contact me at anadi2000@earthlink.net or Ed's lawyer, John Vincent Saykanic, JohnVincent@aol.com

 


 
 

 

 

 

 

An American Tragedy

The Continuing Prosecution of Ed "NJWeedman" Forchion

by Georgina Shanley for DrugWar.com

for more background, please see- 
No Freedom of Speech for Ed NJWeedman Forchion

posted Jan. 22, 2003

On January 21st, 2003, the U.S. District Court in Camden, New Jersey, saw another round in the battle to keep alive the almost-extinct Bill of Rights. It was a cold and frosty morning in Camden. Federal Judge Joseph Irenas called for a meeting in his chambers when Deputy Attorney General of New Jersey James Harris along with an unidentified co-Deputy AG, Ed Barocas, the legal director of the New Jersey ACLU, and John Saykanic assembled for the hearing. The intent was to find out from the 3-Judge Resentencing Panel of the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) whether they would be willing to give the go-ahead by telephone to allow Ed Forchion to return and complete his ISP program. If they refused then Judge Irenas would generate an "injunction to that effect". All seemed straightforward and hopeful. 
 

Meanwhile, in the courtroom Forchion's mother, three journalists, Steve Fenichel and I all waited expectantly for the word. Four hours later the suits assembled in the courtroom with the decision that the 3-judge panel had denied the request. The hearing began. 

Barocas responded to the NJ State claim that the Federal Judge had no right to deliver an injunction. Barocas argued skillfully that Mr Forchion's removal from ISP was based on his use of his First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech. Forchion had spoken with reporters about legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs. 

Much dialogue ensued with the Judge posing hypothetical questions regarding Free Speech. He said he had visited Forchion's website and downloaded the information and did not see where Forchion was actually advocating the use of marijuana. He even said there was a rallying cry there for people to be present at his hearing on Dec. 31st and not one person showed up. He asked how many people were influenced by the site. 

In the end Judge Irenas strayed from the pathway of justice and compassion. He said he would have to think about the issue and needed more time. The Judge also requested a copy of the Dec. 4th resentencing transcript which is mysteriously in the possession of Mr Harvey Goldstein, the Director of ISP. Mr Saykanic had tried to optain a copy but was unsuccessful since the original tape is with Mr Goldstein. Judge Irenas would come up with a decision in a few more days, [a rather indeterminate number]. Meanwhile, Janice Forchion and their children and almost at breaking point. There is much disruption and despair in the household. Mr Forchion was returned to Burlington County Prison at the end of the hearing. 

On Wednesday, January 29th yet another Hearing in Flemington, NJ in front of the 3-judge panel. Last week the ISP officers and Frochion's atty agreed to drop the suit against ISP in return for being returned to the program. Forchion had heavy pressure applied by his 2 attorneys as well as family members to accept this "deal". But the worm made another turn when the 3 judges refused to accept this agreement. 

Now he faces these people again. His mother and wife cannot take any more time off work to be present. They are true victims of this unconscionable war that our government is waging against the poor and non-whites in the U.S. and against the people of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador, and all the other places the US exports their war on some drugs and users. 

More information about yesterday's hearing can be found here- 

'Weedman' fighting expulsion from parole State objects to calls for drug law changes 

STAR-LEDGER

'Weedman' fights parole ruling 

State objects to man's efforts to make marijuana legal

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 

BY MATTHEW REILLY 
Star-Ledger Staff

It will be at least a few more days before the self-styled "New Jersey Weedman" learns whether a federal judge will release him from prison and into the selective probation program he was ejected from by the state. 

Edward Forchion, of Pemberton in Burlington County, had entered the Intensive Supervised Parole program last April after serving 16 months of a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He was kicked out for, among other things, advocating the legalization of marijuana. 
 

 

 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Irenas, sitting in Camden, said yesterday that he wants to take a few days to put together a written opinion on whether the state proved it was right in booting Forchion from the ISP program. 

Irenas said Forchion never tested positive for marijuana during the five months he was in the ISP program, even though he was regularly tested. The main reason for his being found in violation of his ISP terms was his continued open advocacy of reforming the state's marijuana laws. 

"Now we're down to the nub," Irenas told Deputy Attorney General James Harris during yesterday's hearing in Camden. "You're arguing (that) even if a person will not use marijuana, but will go out and argue for a change in the laws, they can be kept out of the program." 

Forchion's fate is also in the hands of a separate entity -- a three-judge state panel that rules on the admission of inmates into the ISP program -- in a hearing that has been going on sporadically since December. The panel met last week without reaching a final decision on whether to reinstate Forchion into the program and is expected to take up the matter again next week. 

Forchion was returned to jail in August after violating terms of his admission into the program by advocating the legalization of marijuana by filming several public service announcements -- which never aired -- favoring changes in the state's drug laws, authorities said. 

Ed Barocas, legal director of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it is the advocacy positions taken by Forchion -- and not the other violations -- that formed the basis for the decision to revoke his participation in the program. 

Deputy Attorney General Harris said the ISP program is discretionary and that the administrators have the right to impose conditions on inmates who want to join it. 

Forchion has maintained he has not used marijuana since being incarcerated or while on parole, nor did he advocate its use. What he did advocate, he says, is a change in the laws governing marijuana use. Forchion is a practicing Rastafarian who used marijuana as part of his religious beliefs as well as for medicinal reasons. 

Forchion pleaded guilty in September 2000 after he was charged with helping his brother and another person pick up 40 pounds of marijuana that had been shipped via Federal Express to Camden County in November 1997

 

 

TRENTONIAN

1/25/2003

JUDGE ISSUE'S INJUNCTION

 

 

JEFF EDELSTEIN, staff writer 

The NJWEEDMAN, Ed Forchion, won a major battle yesterday in his ongoing legal volley with the State of New Jersey.

 

 

United States District Court Judge Joseph E. Irenas granted Forchion a preliminary injunction, thereby freeing him from the Burlington County Jail, where he has been since late summer.

As of press time last night, Forchion had yet to be released, but his lawyer, John Vincent Saykanic, said his release is imminent.

"Mr. Forchion is a freedom fighter," said Saykanic, "and this opinion is a victory not only for Mr. Forchion, but for the First Amendment."

Forchion was arrested Aug. 18 after filming three commercials that the state claims advocated the use of marijuana.

The commercials, as seen by The Trentonian, dealt with First Amendment issues and the war on drugs, and did not explicitly advocate the use of marijuana.

But that’s what members of the Intensive Supervisory Program (ISP) said he did.

ISP is a heightened state of parole Forchion was put into it after 17 months in prison for transporting 25 pounds of pot into the state.

As part of Forchion’s deal, ISP allegedly forbade him from advocating the use of marijuana, though Forchion claims no paperwork on such a restriction exists.

Tom Bartlett, the South Jersey head of the ISP, said it would be "inappropriate" to discuss any matter regarding Forchion when asked the details of Forchion’s ISP deal last September.

Forchion subsequently sought relief from the federal courts, claiming the State of New Jersey violated his First Amendment rights.

Irenas agreed, and ordered Forchion back into the program yesterday.

"It is in the public interest to have Mr. Forchion returned to the Intensive Supervisory Program," Irenas wrote in one part of the 18-page decision. 

While Forchion can claim victory today, his legal woes are still far from over.

Next week, a continuation of Forchion’s battle with the ISP continues, as he is in the middle of a fight to be let back into the program.

Saykanic said the federal judge’s ruling may or may not have an effect in Forchion’s upcoming state hearing.

"It could certainly change things," Saykanic said. "It could change how they rule." 

 


 
 
 
 

 

"WEEDMAN" RELEASED BY FEDERAL JUDGE!

TRENTONIAN

1/26/2003

FORCHION say's he'll keep waging battle!

By LAURA PELNER, staff writer 

As expected "NJWEEDMAN" Ed Forchion was released from jail friday night after a federal judge intervened on his behalf. Forchion, who had been in the BURLINGTON COUNTY JAIL for 5 months, was set free about 11 p.m.. And with his new found freedom, the marijuana advocate said he would go right back to fighting for what put him behind bars in the first place. 

"The first thing I'm going to do is renew my protest for my child custody situation," Forchion told the TRENTONIAN yesterday. "Now that the Judge has upheld ... the constitution, I'm going to renew my protest for my child visitation." 

In 1998, during the height of Forchion's campaign to legalize marijuana and stop the war on drugs, his ex- brought newspaper clippings to court in which Forchion was quoted. Before he had ever been convicted of a crime, a judge ruled he was unfit for his children and took away Forchion's visitation rights. 

Since then Forchion has had many run-ins with the law. His most recent arrest, August 19th, 2002 came after he filmed a set of commercials advocating the first amendment. Though they never promoted pot, state officals ruled the commercials went against his intensive supervisory parole program. 

STAR-LEDGER

Marijuana activist to re-enter early release program 

 

 

 

Saturday, January 25, 2003 

BY MATTHEW REILLY 
Star-Ledger Staff

A federal court judge yesterday ordered the "New Jersey Weedman" be freed from jail and returned to the early release program from which he was booted last year for advocating changes in the state's marijuana laws. 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Irenas, sitting in Camden, granted a temporary injunction sought by Ed Forchion, also known as the New Jersey Weedman, a self-styled marijuana activist. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

John Vincent Saykanic, a lawyer representing Forchion, said efforts were under way to get Forchion out of jail and home to his family. 

"Ed Forchion is a true freedom fighter," Saykanic said. "He has been fighting for what he believes in." 

Edward Barocas, legal director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was "extremely pleased" with Irenas' decision. 

"It makes clear to state officials that they cannot retaliate against a person under their control or supervision simply because they don't like the position he is advocating," Barocas said. 

Forchion had entered the Intensive Supervised Parole program last April after serving 16 months of a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He was kicked out of the program last August for, among other things, advocating the legalization of marijuana. 

In his ruling, Irenas said it was clear that the conduct that led to Forchion's being kicked out of the ISP program and returned to jail is constitutionally protected. 

"Most of the infractions cited by the ISP officers involved (Forchion) either speaking to the press, protesting and handing out pamphlets outside of the courthouse, running a Web site, or producing and appearing in television commercials," Irenas wrote. "This behavior is clearly protected by the First Amendment, particularly since it primarily involved (Forchion's) belief that marijuana should be legalized." 

Irenas ordered that the ISP supervising officers be forbidden from removing Forchion from the program for any future violations unless they first give him 48 hours notice of their intentions. If there is possible immediate harm to the public good if Forchion is not removed from the ISP program, the ISP officers can make an emergency motion before Irenas. 

Irenas also ordered that Forchion cannot promote the illegal use of marijuana once he is released. 

Forchion was returned to jail in August after allegedly violating terms of his admission into the program by advocating the legalization of marijuana when he allegedly filmed several public service announcements -- which never aired -- favoring changes in the state's drug laws. 

Forchion of Pemberton Township, Burlington County, pleaded guilty in September 2000 after he was charged with helping his brother and another person pick up 40 pounds of marijuana that had been shipped via Federal Express to Camden County in November 1997. 

Matthew Reilly works in the Hunterdon County bureau. He can be reached at mreilly@starledger.com or (908) 782-8326. 

 

 

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

1/26/2003 

Pot protester wins release from jail!

 

A self-styled marijuana activist has been freed from the Burlington County jail, where he was being held after expulsion from a prison early-release program. 

Ed Forchion, who calls himself "NJ Weedman," was released Friday night after five months. 

Forchion landed in jail after being kicked out of the Intensive Supervised Parole program in August. 

State authorities said he violated terms of admission to the program by filming several public service announcements advocating changes to New Jersey's drug laws and by advocating legalizing marijuana. 

The Pemberton man entered the program last April, after serving 16 months of a 10-year prison term for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. 

U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas said Forchion's dismissal and subsequent incarceration denied him free speech protections guaranteed under the Constitution's First Amendment. 

But in ordering Forchion's freedom and return to the parole program, Irenas barred the activist from promoting illegal use of marijuana after his release. 

Forchion said Saturday has no plans to change his views. He said the judge told him he could not "advocate imminent criminality. I can't say, 'Hey you, smoke marijuana.'" 

"It doesn't stop me from saying that marijuana isn't as bad as the government says. I still believe the marijuana laws are based on lies," he said. 

Forchion, who has sought to make "NJ Weedman" his legal name, has said he used marijuana because of his religious beliefs and for medical reasons. 

He made three bids for a seat in Congress, losing twice and quitting one race after being indicted on drug charges.



 

 

 

 

Issue #280, 3/28/03


6. DDRCNet Interview: Ed Forchion, the New Jersey Weedman

   Ed Forchion, also known as the New Jersey Weedman (http://www.njweedman.com), has since his marijuana trafficking arrest in New Jersey in 1997 become an outspoken and outrageous opponent of the state's and the nation's marijuana laws. Energized by his arrest, Forchion commenced a flamboyant public campaign to change the law and, hopefully, avoid being sent to prison for 20 years. Forchion ran for the US Congress and for local office, publicly smoking pot along the way. He appeared at the New Jersey state capitol attired in striped convicts' garb, and smoked there, too. At one point, he even sought political asylum in Canada -- to no avail. At all times, he generated press coverage and controversy.

 

Finally, Forchion pled guilty in exchange for a short prison stay, then got out on probation last year. By then adopting the NJ Weedman moniker, Forchion was in no mood to call it a day. He soon ran afoul of New Jersey probation officials for -- of all things -- expressing his opinions on public policy issues, particularly marijuana legalization. In a move that should startle the conscience of a democratic society, New Jersey authorities jailed Forchion for five months for planning to air TV commercials airing his political viewpoint. If New Jersey officials had their way, he'd still be rotting behind bars, but thanks to the intervention of a federal judge, the NJ Weedman is back from the land of the living dead and ready to tell his tales. DRCNet spoke with Forchion from his New Jersey home Thursday.



Week Online: How does it feel to be a free man again?

Ed Forchion: Well, I'm semi-free, anyway; I'm in the ISP, the Intensive Supervision Program, although the state thinks it stands for Inmate Silence Program. The federal judge who freed me ordered ISP to take me back, and while I'm still in the program, they're leaving me alone. They used to make me meet with them twice a week to give urine samples, but now they don't let me near the other participants -- they're afraid I'll contaminate them by telling them the Constitution applies even to prisoners -- and they come to my house to urine test me. I'm still waiting to get the man off my back. I'm happy to be out, of course, but still shocked that I spent five months in jail for making a commercial.


WOL: You had finished a prison sentence on a marijuana charge and were out on parole when they threw you back in jail for making TV commercials?

Forchion: Yes, I was on ISP and had been ordered not to talk to the press and not to talk about marijuana. I was in jail when they told me those conditions, and I knew it was illegal, but I was in jail and I wasn't about to say no. They wanted me to discontinue my public stance for legalization, but when I got out, the newspapers wanted to talk to me, and I talked to them. My parole officer gave me written warnings, then when I continued anyway, threw me in jail for five days in June. It was outrageous! How can you throw someone in jail for talking to the press? That condition of my parole was unconstitutional, and I told ISP that in a letter. They replied that those were the rules, and that's when I decided to challenge it as a First Amendment issue. That's when I taped those commercials to advocate a policy change on marijuana. How can you defend yourself if you don't have the right to free speech? I knew my making the commercials would be controversial, but I didn't know they'd throw me in jail for five months.

WOL: How did you get out?

 

Forchion: I filed a writ of habeas corpus to the federal court saying I was being punished for exercising my right to free speech, that the order that I not speak about pot was an unconstitutional condition of my confinement. (I was out on parole, but still serving my sentence, thus "confined.") In short, the federal judge agreed that I had the right to free speech. He ordered the state to show a reason why they had me in jail other than for exercising my First Amendment rights, and the state couldn't. I hadn't violated conditions of my parole, they had nothing, except that I talked about certain things to certain people. Of course, that took five months.

 

I had also filed suit in the New Jersey courts, but that entire process was a sham, a mockery of justice. The first time I was supposed to argue for my freedom, they just left me in jail, they forgot to bring me to court. The judges rescheduled not for the next week or two weeks, but two months later. I finally got a hearing in December, but the judges let the state filibuster all day. I never even got to state my case. It was obvious they were delaying. The judges scheduled another hearing a month later. I was still in jail -- five months -- and I hadn't even been able to make my case in court. It was done deliberately by officials of the state of New Jersey.

 

That's when the federal court, Judge Irenas, gave the state 21 days to show cause to keep me. They tried to argue that I didn't have free speech in ISP, but the judge ruled my imprisonment unconstitutional and ordered my release. I walked out of jail on January 24.

 

WOL: Now you are suing Comcast for refusing to run your ads advocating a policy change on marijuana. What is it you hope to accomplish with this lawsuit, and surely the requested $420,000 in damages is just a coincidence?

 

Forchion: Once the press started writing about my commercials, Comcast censored them. I had a signed agreement with them, I had put down a cash deposit, they had run my campaign commercials in 1999 and 2000, but they suddenly yanked the ads and made public statements saying I advocated drug use, saying I was advocating criminal activity. When my parole officer locked me up the next day, he used the same words Comcast used.

 

This is a harassment lawsuit; it's designed to get Comcast to air those commercials. I spent five months in jail for those commercials, but they still haven't been on the air. And this is important because our movement can't afford network advertising rates, but cable channel ads are affordable. Comcast is the largest cable provider in the country, and they need to learn not to censor. I would drop the lawsuit in 420 seconds if they agreed to air the commercials. The $420,000 figure was a deliberate attempt to catch the attention of the marijuana community, but it's not about the money.


WOL: How did you become a marijuana radical?

Forchion: I always thought marijuana should be legal, but like lots of people, I just sat around and smoked weed and talked about it. After I got arrested, then I went for it. I also wanted to do jury nullification. I wanted people on the jury to know who I was and how I felt, so I announced I was running for Congress against Rep. Rob Andrews and smoked a joint in his office. I did the same thing at Democratic Party headquarters here as I announced my candidacy for county freeholder. I swore I would smoke marijuana publicly at least once a month during my campaigns, which I did. I told the newspapers I would gladly plead guilty to conspiracy to grow pot if they would charge my coconspirator -- God. I smoked marijuana at the state capitol. I was arrested several times, but never prosecuted after I threatened to file a Religious Freedom Restoration Act defense.

 

The bigger picture was that I was getting press and getting my opinion heard. All those people in New Jersey were potential jurors, too. And it worked. People thought I was a fool, they said I was talking my way into jail, but when I finally went to trial, I told the prosecutors I only needed one juror to acquit. Then one of the jurors started crying, saying she couldn't convict me. On the third day, they offered me a deal. I went from looking at 20 years to doing six months and parole. Of course, they still screwed me. They did a bait and switch. After I was in prison for a month, I got a letter saying I was ineligible for that early release. I got a real web design ace, James Dawson, to update my website to explain the situation, I called myself a political prisoner, and I filed a motion to change my name to NJWeedman.com. People thought it was ridiculous, but the press picked up on it, people started going to the web site, and what do you know? Suddenly, two months late, ISP changes its mind and I get out on parole. I spent about a year on a 20-year charge.


WOL: You are a Rastafarian. Can you explain how that influences your views on marijuana?

Forchion: I guess I was a searcher. As a kid, I rejected Christianity and religion. For awhile I wanted to be a Muslim; I went to the temple and swore I would be the next Malcolm X. But by my 20s, I was an atheist. My army dogtags said "atheist" and my Marine dogtags said "no preference." I met some Jamaicans, I was smoking marijuana, and they said I should let Jah into my life. I started finding myself then. Rastafarianism teaches respect for nature and natural things, while Christianity teaches that marijuana is the devil's weed, a sinful thing. Rastafarianism eventually got me in trouble, because I believe smoking marijuana is a religious freedom. If we had true religious freedom, we would have an exception to the drug laws. But the authorities in New Jersey knew I was serious about this, about using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect my religious practice, and they would not prosecute me. I could smoke anywhere in New Jersey and not get prosecuted. Arrested, yes, but not prosecuted.


WOL: You are a black guy from
New Jersey, but black marijuana activists seem to be a rare breed. Why do you think that is?

Forchion: It is frustrating. People are afraid. The drug laws are enforced tougher and harder against our communities. The prisons are full of faces like mine. But there are only a couple of black activists -- Cliff Thornton in Connecticut, Sister Somayah in Los Angeles -- that I know of, and a couple of preachers. But groups like the NAACP and the black community groups are almost all run by the reverends and preachers, and they can't get past the idea that smoking marijuana is sinful. It's a real hindrance. I've basically stopped talking to local NAACP chapters. And the New Jersey Council of Black Ministers, they were very active on racial profiling, and that was all about finding drugs, but the ministers shied away from talking about the drug war. Until historical black organizations start taking this up, black people aren't going to be involved. I tell them, if you're complaining about a million black men in prison, then enlighten us on serving on juries. They don't want to hear it.


WOL: You are something of a free agent in terms of marijuana activism. Do you get any support from the organized drug reform movement? Why or why not?

Forchion: I think the drug reform groups think I'm too wacky, with the NJ Weedman thing. Being the Weedman is a double-edged sword. It has got me attention from the mainstream media, and I've been accepted because the reporters listen and understand that what I'm saying is not wacky. But the other side is that movement people think I'm a lunatic. When I start talking about them providing me some help, they ask why they should give money to the silly NJ Weedman.


WOL: What's next for you, and where do you think the movement should be heading?

Forchion: I'm sure not going away. I spent five months in jail for trying to express myself; I want to see those commercials aired. I'm trying to present the case for legalization, but they won't let me put it on TV. So I will continue to push my court cases and I will continue to try to get media attention. It has worked for me and for the issue so far, and if you want to get some piece of legislation passed, you've got to get on the TV. I'm also the subject of two documentaries, one by Peter Christopher, which is strictly on the First Amendment fight, and the second by an independent filmmaker that will be broader, looking at the whole NJ Weedman thing. You know, at first people think "NJ Weedman, ha-ha," people think marijuana is a funny issue, but after they hear me out, it isn't so funny anymore. And now they can't ignore me. My picture has been in the paper many times, so people recognize me at Walmart, and I'm a celebrity at local courthouses. I'm not just another one of those million black guys fighting drug charges, I'm the NJ Weedman!

 

I think the organizations interested in legalizing marijuana need to reach a national consensus to push civil disobedience and jury nullification. I think it's a waste of time to try to lobby Democrats and Republicans to change the law -- there may be at best a handful of sympathetic congressmen -- so it's up to we the people to change these laws. If the drug reform and marijuana legalization groups got behind jury nullification, we can change those laws. There is tremendous potential there -- just look at the Ed Rosenthal case. If a single juror there knew he could have voted his conscience, Ed would have walked free. This is a valuable option. People wouldn't convict their neighbors for beer violations during alcohol Prohibition; we can do the same thing now. Lots of people don't think people should be punished for marijuana, and jury nullification gives us the chance to exploit that. We have the power, if we just choose to exercise it, but we need to teach the people. If we can use public sentiment in this way, we can win. Juries can judge the law as well as the facts -- let's put the law on trial.