'Marijuana proponent gets OK to challenge state's laws'

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'Marijuana proponent gets OK to challenge state's laws'

http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/burlington_county_times/bct_news_details/article/26/2010/december/08/marijuana-proponent-gets-ok-to-challenge-states-laws.html

12/08/2010

MOUNT HOLLY - Ed Forchion, also known as NJWeedman, the Pemberton Township native and marijuana activist, will get his chance to challenge the state laws on drug possession, in light of the new medical marijuana law, as part of his ongoing criminal case.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey heard from Forchion, now of California, during a status conference in the case.

Delehey ordered Forchion to submit his brief challenging the constitutionality of the state's criminal code, which makes pot possession illegal, in part, because it has no medicinal value, while New Jersey is working to roll out a medical marijuana program for the treatment of certain conditions.

Forchion, who said he would write the brief himself, has until April 15 to submit his argument that the two laws are contradictory and therefore unconstitutional. New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana when the legislation was signed into law in January. Patients would access marijuana grown and distributed through state monitored dispensaries, which could begin the program by next summer.

A Burlington County grand jury indicted Forchion in August on a third degree charge of possession with the intent to distribute and a fourth degree charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. In October he pleaded not guilty.

Forchion readily acknowledges that he had about a pound of marijuana in the trunk of his rental car April 1 when police stopped him on Route 38 in Mount Holly for running a red light. Forchion, who is a Rastafarian, said he had the drugs for his own spiritual and medicinal purposes.

Forchion said he will file the constitutional challenge to New Jersey's medical marijuana law, which he and other activists find too restrictive to help many patients, as part of his defense.

On Tuesday, Forchion, who is being represented by court appointed attorney Donald Ackerman, was also ordered to submit a brief for the suppression of evidence in his case by Dec. 20. He is due back in court in March for a hearing on that motion.

Forchion again rejected the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office's plea deal to resolve the criminal matter. The original offer was six years, including three without parole; the new offer was reduced to an 18 month prison term in exchange for a guilty plea to the possession charge.

Forchion said after the hearing that he wants to take the case to trial.

He has been in self styled "political exile" from New Jersey since 2008. Although he maintains a legal residence in Pemberton Township, he lives and works in California.

Forchion has been in self-styled "political exile" from New Jersey since 2008. While he maintains a legal residence in Pemberton, he lives and works in California.

He runs the Liberty Bell Temple on Hollywood Boulevard, a state registered medical marijuana clinic at which he legally sells pot and claims to run the only Rastafarian ministry in Los Angeles.

Contact: dcamilli@philyBurbs.com or 609-267-7586






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