JURY NULLIFICATION CASE
NJWEEDMAN to Challenge Law
Burlington County Times
MOUNT HOLLY - The man who gained notoriety as NJWeedman didn't expect to get arrested this month on his return to Burlington County, but he intends to use the criminal charges against him as a rallying point to challenge the state's new medical marijuana law.
Ed Forchion, 45, formerly of Pemberton Township and now living in Los Angeles, admitted he had about a pound of pot in the trunk of his rental car when a state trooper stopped him at Route 38 and Pine Street in Mount Holly on April 1, but he disputed that he had any intention of selling or distributing it.
Forchion, a longtime marijuana activist who now calls himself a marijuana capitalist, fought for years in New Jersey to legalize the use of the drug for medical and spiritual purposes. The founder of the Legalize Marijuana Party of New Jersey ran unsuccessful campaigns for governor, Congress, the state Legislature, and the Burlington County Board of Freeholders.
"I despise the new law, and now my criminal case gives me standing to challenge it," said Forchion, who owns and operates a medical marijuana dispensary, the Liberty Bell Temple, on Hollywood Boulevard, where he can legally sell the herb. "The New Jersey law is so restrictive, it just irritates me. It doesn't cover people like me who would rather twist up a joint and smoke it rather than take a Tylenol if I have a headache or problem with my back. It instead creates a separate class of walking dead people who can legally use it."
In January, Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation that would allow patients diagnosed with severe medical conditions, including AIDS, cancer, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig's disease, to access marijuana grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries.
Forchion said he would file a constitutional challenge to the new law on the grounds that the state's criminal code - the one he was arrested and charged under - reads that marijuana has no medicinal value.
"But now the state has another law that legalizes it for medical purposes. You can't have it both ways," he said. "I've taken it upon myself to be the guy to challenge it."
"I had my dreads hanging," said Forchion, a Rastafarian who uses marijuana as a sacrament in his religious practice. "We were both at the stoplight together, and I saw him and he made me nervous. I knew he was back there."
The New Jersey State Police deny Forchion's claims and said he was stopped for failing to obey a red light at the intersection. During the stop, the trooper smelled burned marijuana, saw a glass smoking pipe on the rear seat of the vehicle, and got a warrant to search the car when Forchion refused to let him, officials said.
"I can assure you, Mr. Forchion was stopped for a traffic violation," said Capt. Gerald Lewis, a state police spokesman. "His claims are baseless."
Some, including his own family, friends and supporters, have questioned why Forchion would come back to the Garden State, where trouble has seemed to find him over the years, when he can legally and successfully run a business in California.
"Trust me, I didn't do this on purpose. Even though I say I've been in political exile from New Jersey since moving to L.A. two years ago, I've been quietly sneaking in and out of here every other month or so," he said. "To catch a charge like this is crazy. ... I felt stupid."
In Los Angeles, NJWeedman is somewhat of a star. He drives a "weedmobile" and has a celebrity clientele, and his shop has been featured in movies and is even on a few Hollywood sightseeing tours.
"The police know me and wave at me," he said.
If convicted in New Jersey on the charges of possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia, Forchion could face a state-prison sentence.
"It does concern me, but I'm not afraid. I'm not terrified," he said. "I'll survive."
New Jersey “Weedman” Arrested on Possession and Distribution ChargesNEW JERSEY DEFENSE LAWYER LAW BLOG
The self proclaimed “Weedman” was arrested last week in Mount Holly as he was transporting a suitcase of marijuana is the trunk of his rental car. The man, who has incidentally ran for numerous public offices, is now facing charges of possession and distribution for the pound that was confiscated.
The “NJ Weedman”, as this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer states, believes the arrest was destiny and a future platform for him to fight what he believes are unconstitutional aspects of the marijuana laws in New Jersey.
Although he is a personal fan of marijuana, he is opposed to the medical marijuana legislation because he believes it violates the “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution, only protecting certain people from prosecution for marijuana crimes.
Although it is unlikely the “Weedman” will successfully battle the new medical marijuana laws, his theories are interesting, if nothing else.
Marijuana laws are changing all over the country as states consider legislation for everything from medical marijuana to legalizing the drug altogether. Here in New Jersey, some residents have the mistaken opinion that medical marijuana will somehow decrease the seriousness of a pot charge.
Unfortunately, for everyday people charged of marijuana possession or even distribution, the new medical marijuana laws will do nothing. If anything, judges and prosecutors will be on the lookout to ensure the new laws don’t minimize the public’s perception of marijuana as a controlled substance.
'NJ Weedman' has high hopes after pot bust
Ed Forchion doesn't deny it. There was a pound of marijuana - "high-grade California Kush" - in the trunk of his rent-a-wreck when he was stopped in Mount Holly on Thursday night by a state trooper.
The dreadlocked Rastafarian - better known as "NJ Weedman," who ran unsuccessfully for New Jersey governor and U.S. and state representative on the Marijuana Party ticket - was released from the Burlington County jail on Tuesday after posting $50,000 cash bail for drug possession and distribution charges.
He didn't get intend to be arrested, said Forchion, 45. "But now that I've been charged, it feels like destiny. That's exactly what I wanted to do."
Forchion, who moved from Browns Mills two years ago to open a medical-marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles called the Liberty Bell Temple, said he returned to South Jersey last week "to spend a little time in the courts."
Forchion has been a vocal critic of the New Jersey law, passed in January, that legalized marijuana use by patients with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other debilitating diseases.
"I was coming home on a mission to file some paper work and challenge it," Forchion said on Tuesday.
The criminal statute in New Jersey states that marijuana has no medicinal value, he said. The new measure does recognize a medical use for the drug, but only gives "a certain class of people" permission to use it.
Forchion said the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
His arrest on Thursday gives him the opportunity to take his stand to the New Jersey courts, he said.
"I'm going to fight," Forchion said, acknowledging that he could be sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted. "I'm not afraid to go to jail. I think I can win."
Forchion was driving a rented 2001 Pontiac Grand Am Thursday after 10 p.m. when he pulled up to a stop light on Route 38. He said he had been visiting his children in Burlington County and was headed to Camden County, where he planned to stay with other relatives.
A trooper who pulled alongside Forchion said the Pontiac rolled into the intersection before the light turned green, said Sgt. Steve Jones, a state police spokesman.
After stopping the Pontiac, the officer smelled burnt marijuana and saw a glass smoking pipe on the rear floor. Forchion also had two outstanding warrants, one for non-payment of child support and another for a delinquent traffic fine, Jones said.
Forchion says the pound of marijuana troopers found in a suitcase was for personal use. He denies he had any intention of selling it.
"A pound of marijuana is like a carton of cigarettes to me. What do they think I was going to do? Sell nickel bags on the corner?" he scoffed. "I'm the Weedman."
NJWeedman returns to Garden State
Burlington County Times
MOUNT HOLLY - NJWeedman is back in the Garden State.
Since Thursday night, he has been held at the Burlington County Jail on drug possession and distribution charges after a routine traffic stop in the township allegedly turned up about a pound of pot in his trunk, authorities said.
Edward Forchion, 45, of Studio City, Calif., had his first appearance in Superior Court on Monday before Judge James Palmer Jr., who raised his bail from $25,000 to $50,000.
The former Pemberton Township resident appeared from the jail by closed-circuit television. He asked the judge to keep his bail at the original $25,000, saying he had just paid on a child support warrant and would not be able to make the higher bail.
Forchion has grabbed headlines for years in New Jersey and nationwide as a leading advocate for the legalization of the medical and spiritual use of marijuana. The founder of the Legalize Marijuana Party of New Jersey ran unsuccessful but highly publicized campaigns for governor, Congress, the state Legislature, and the Burlington County Board of Freeholders.
In the past, he has found himself in trouble with the law after smoking pot at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, inside the State House in Trenton, and outside the Burlington County court complex in the township.
In 2008 he moved to California, calling himself a political exile from New Jersey, and opened the Liberty Bell Temple on Hollywood Boulevard, a state-registered medical marijuana clinic where he legally sells pot.
In a video on his Web site, Forchion claims he runs the only Rastafarian ministry in Los Angeles. In his religious practice, marijuana is used as a sacrament, Forchion has said.
Last month Forchion, who has achieved cult status in the medical marijuana community, made national news when he produced a flier for his "Obama One Year in Office Celebration" with a doctored photo of the president smoking a joint. He also released a memoir, "Public Enemy 420: NJWeedman SuperHero to Potheads Volume 1." ("420" is slang for smoking pot.)
On Monday, Forchion's publicist, Makeda Smith, said that her client has been "back East for at least a week" and that it wasn't uncommon for him to return to New Jersey since he has family in the county. Last week he debated legalizing marijuana as a guest on a radio show out of New York, she said.
"I wish he was back in California, the land of the free and the home of the brave," Smith said. "He tells me he loves the East Coast, but I'm so glad he lives in L.A. now."
For now Forchion will remain in jail until he can post bail.
A state trooper stopped Forchion at 10:12 p.m. Thursday on westbound Route 38 for failing to obey a red light at Pine Street, according to Sgt. Stephen Jones, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.
During the stop, the trooper smelled marijuana and saw a glass smoking pipe on the rear seat of the vehicle, Jones said.
Forchion was taken into custody but refused to permit the trooper to search his vehicle. A warrant was obtained and a plastic-wrapped package containing about 1 pound of marijuana was found in the trunk and seized, Jones said.
He was also found in possession of $2,000 in cash, which also was seized.
He was charged with possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Forchion also was wanted on an outstanding traffic warrant out of Franklin Township, Somerset County, and a court warrant for $10,000 in unpaid child support, Jones said.
Smith said Forchion pays his support directly to the mothers of his children, refusing to pay through the court. In court Monday, Forchion said he paid the warrant and supports three children and pays rent for his 24-year-old daughter.
He also gave his old Hanover Boulevard address in the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Township. He told the judge he would fight the charges and would likely represent himself with the assistance of a private attorney.
Forchion, who at one time was legally known as NJWeedman, was last in the county jail in 2003, when he spent five months for violating provisions of an intensive parole supervision program he was enrolled in after being released from state prison in 2000.
He served 16 months of a 10-year sentence for distributing and possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute for a 1997 offense.
Contact: dcamilli@phillyBurbs.com or 609-267-7586
Contact: dlevinsky@phillyBurbs.com or 609-871-8154
Caught with a pound of reefer, "NJ Weedman" says cops "racially profiled" him
MOUNT HOLLY —“NJ
Weedman” Ed Forchion said he wishes he hadn’t been driving with a
pound of herb in his car on April Fools’ Day. But he’s also charging
police with racially profiling him.