NJ Weedman asks Gov. Christie to waive staggered prison term so he can receive cancer treatment
Edward Forchion, known as “NJ Weedman,” has asked Gov. Chris Christie to grant executive clemency and waive his unusual staggered prison term for marijuana use that prevents him from receiving medical treatment for cancerous tumors.
He reported to the Burlington County Jail to serve a 270-day staggered jail sentence earlier this year, with 20 20-day periods of incarceration separated by 10-day periods of release in order to allow Forchion to receive treatment for cancerous giant cell tumors in his legs.
Forchion, a marijuana activist for nearly 20 years, said the staggered prison term was hypocritical: He says he needs medical marijuana to ease the pain of his tumors, and he’ll go to California if he can to get it legally.
“I’m clearly a marijuana patient. The judge will let me out to go to California, knowing I’m going to get marijuana as soon as I walk out the door,” Forchion said. “I go to California, where I’m treated like a patient for a few days, then I have to turn around and go back to prison.”
The staggered sentence prevents Forchion from earning enough money to fly to California to receive the treatments, he said, and it doesn’t give him enough time to fit in MRIs, bone scans and other medical procedures.
“For whatever reason, the judge thinks it’s helping me, but it doesn’t do anything but hurt me,” Forchion said.
It’s not the first time medical marijuana activists have clamored for Christie to take action to improve medical marijuana access. In 2012, Christie declined requests to grant clemency to John Ray Wilson, 39, a Somerset man who was convicted of growing marijuana used to ease the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis.
But in September, Christie conceded to marijuana activists and signed a bill that allows sick children access to edible marijuana, calling the changes “common-sense recommendations to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer.”
Forchion said it’s unlikely the governor will go so far as to grant him clemency for his marijuana offense.
“I don’t expect him to grant it, but it’s one of my last options. Maybe public opinion can scream bloody murder, like they did with ‘Pot for Tots’ or with the John Ray Wilson case,” Forchion said.
A spokesman at Christie’s office did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment.
Forchion was charged with possession and distribution of marijuana after a 2010 motor vehicle stop in Evesham. A jury acquitted him of the distribution charge but convicted him of possession.
The day he was convicted, Forchion failed to report to the probation office — mistakenly assuming he could wait until an appeal was heard — and was later arrested for violating probation attached to the conviction.
In an accompanying six-page document with his clemency request, Forchion argues that his Geneva Convention rights were violated because of what happened to him after his arrest on the probation violation. He was put in jail and was unable to receive the type of medical care he says he needed. Forchion said he missed two scheduled cancer treatments. He later pleaded guilty only because of the need to seek treatment, he said.
“We’re fighting a drug war and, if you’re arrested, you should be classified as a prisoner of war,” Forchion said. “The Geneva Convention was designed to protect prisoners of war, and I feel like one.”
READ CLEMENCY REQUEST HERE - http://www.njweedman.com/index.php/press-releases/250-clemency
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NJWeedman seeks medical clemency from Gov. Christie Fri Nov 8, 2013.
Longtime marijuana activist Ed "NJWeedman" Forchion has petitioned Gov. Christie for clemency in hopes that the governor can end the monthly staggered jail sentences he is now serving.
Forchion, of Pemberton Township, has filed a petition for medical clemency, hoping the governor will sign his get-out-of-jail card because, he argues, his incarceration is preventing him from necessary treatments for bone cancer in California.
His petition for relief is more subtle than his last correspondence with Gov. Christie. In 2011, Forchion said he mailed a pill bottle full of weed to the governor and other officials.
The current jail sentence, imposed in September after Forchion violated a probationary term, was fashioned to allow Forchion to serve 20 days a month in jail and 10 days out so he could travel to the West Coast for injections for the painful leg growths. Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey imposed the nine-month, or 270-day, sentence for Forchion’s 2010 conviction for fourth-degree marijuana possession.
At the time the judge said, “(Forchion) won't be denied treatments, but this court is not giving him a free pass." He noted that the defendant violated the "lenient" probation sentence that required very little of him, allowed him to use marijuana, and permitted him to be transported to California, where he is a licensed medical marijuana user.
Forchion, who was released Tuesday from his latest 20-day term, said the staggered sentence is not letting him get back to California for his injections, which are part of an experimental treatment protocol that are required on specific days. He has also not been able to schedule other tests.
“Because of the imprisonment my monthly health care has been ruined,” Forchion writes in his request to Christie. “The jailing … has prevented me from obtaining required MRI/bone scan and prevented me from raising cash for flight to California for treatment.”
He notes a missed MRI in October and has no cash to fly out this month. Forchion also argues that he is protected under The Geneva Convention, which outlaws denying health care to prisoners of war, claiming he is a “prisoner in the war on drugs.”
“I’m a patient in California and a prisoner in New Jersey,” he said.
Forchion also asked the governor to consider his request in light of the state’s medical marijuana law, which was passed at the time of his 2010 arrest but not implemented. Even under the implemented program, Forchion would have still been breaking the law with the pound of marijuana police found in the trunk of his rental car during a traffic stop in Mount Holly on April 1, 2010.
The activist is due back at Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly on Nov. 15 to serve his next 20 days. As of Friday, he hadn't raised enough cash to fly back to California for treatment or medical tests.
Forchion calls his jail term “a hypocritical injustice and flies in the face of the goals and intent” of the state’s law, as well as “national public perceptions of medical marijuana.”
The Appellate Division of the state Superior Court denied Forchion’s emergent appeal to stay the sentence until after his full appeal of his conviction could be heard and decided.
“I won’t get my freedom back or my health care corrected, if and when the appeals court rules in my favor,” Forchion said Friday.