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'NJWeedman' charged again with pot possession
The BURLINGTON COUNTY TIMES
By Danielle Camilli
4/15/2013 -EVESHAM — Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion, out of jail to receive bone cancer treatments in California, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana during a traffic stop on Route 73 on Monday night.
The longtime activist and licensed medical marijuana patient in California, where the former Pemberton Township resident has been living for several years, also was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia for the rolling papers in his pocket, according to the police complaint.
Both are disorderly-persons offenses. Forchion was released on his own recognizance and ordered to appear in Evesham Municipal Court on May 8. The arrest comes just weeks after he was sentenced to nine months in the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly for a Superior Court conviction for possessing a pound of pot during a 2010 traffic stop in Mount Holly.
Forchion was given the jail time after he failed to comply with a probationary term. By the time he was sentenced, however, he had served 45 days and was allowed to be released days later so he could go to California to continue an experimental medical trial for painful cancerous tumors in his legs. Once treatment is completed, Forchion needs to finish his sentence and will be in Superior Court in September for a review.
“I still owe Judge (Charles) Delehey 45 days, and now this,” Forchion said Tuesday.
His previous case, which resulted in two trials, sparked debate about New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, with Forchion believed to be the first defendant in the state allowed to present his use of medical marijuana as a defense in a criminal trial. He was convicted of possession, but ultimately was acquitted of a more serious charge of distribution.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, which was not in effect when Forchion was arrested in 2010, would not have allowed him to legally possess the drug since it does not recognize the rights of licensed medical marijuana patients from other states. It also does not allow him to legally possess it in New Jersey since he is not a licensed user here and did not obtain the marijuana he allegedly had Monday night through the state program.
Forchion admits that he had two pills of marijuana in a prescription bottle when he was a passenger in a friend’s car Monday. The woman was stopped by police because one of her vehicle lights was out. She was not arrested.
“I was a passenger. We were not smoking, so it didn’t smell. There was no probable cause,” he said. “I was even wearing my seat belt.”
Forchion said he believes he was profiled and alleges that an officer involved in his arrest told him he had never met a person wearing a “weed shirt who didn’t have weed on him.” Forchion videotaped parts of the traffic stop, with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” playing on the car radio in the background, and shared them on social media sites, but the clips do not capture the alleged exchange between him and the officer.
Forchion said he was searched after Evesham police called in a K-9 unit. The dog alerted officers to the presence of marijuana.
A call to the Evesham police about the arrest was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Forchion said he again will fight the constitutionality of the state’s criminal laws, which give authorities the right to arrest for possession, while its medical marijuana law, signed in 2010, recognizes its medicinal value. Delehey struck down the argument in the 2010 case, but Forchion is using that decision as part of the appeal of his conviction.
“I lost everything fighting that case, and now I’m broke. But I’m still going to fight, because the law is wrong,” said Forchion, who before his 2010 arrest was a successful owner and operator of a California medical marijuana dispensary.
He lost his shop and equipment following a federal Drug Enforcement Administration raid of the property after his New Jersey arrest. The activist lives primarily in New Jersey with family, but travels monthly to California for treatment. He said he uses marijuana daily for pain relief.
When asked why he does not legally participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, Forchion said the eligibility and rules would make it difficult for him to be accepted, noting that is one of the many limitations to the state law.
“I already have a card from California. My condition doesn’t change when I cross state lines, so why should my medicine?” he said, echoing an argument he put before the jury in his earlier case. “That’s an issue for my appeal. I’m not just trying to protect myself. I’m trying to change the law.”
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