That’s part of the reason an attorney for the city has asked a judge a second time to toss out the marijuana activist’s lawsuit, filed earlier this year in federal court in Trenton.
The activist said in his lawsuit the city’s 11 p.m. curfew violates his First Amendment and religious rights. He contends he and his band of pot smokers should be allowed to peaceably assemble at his cannabis church, Liberty Bell Temple, whenever they want to partake in the “sacrament” of reefer.
Jacqueline DeGregorio, an attorney from Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s law firm who represents the city, said in court papers the ordinance is a lawful exercise of the city’s police powers intended to protect the “character of the neighborhood … and ensure the health, safety and general welfare of the community.”
The curfew doesn’t prevent Forchion’s clan from assembling when the curfew isn’t in effect, between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.DeGregorio added Forchion is a fake preacher who is high on his own message, and his cannabis temple isn’t a real church.
“The ordinance is unrelated to the suppression of plaintiffs’ free speech and leaves open ample alternative channels for the plaintiff to communicate their message, whatever that may be, at any time except between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” she wrote to U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan.
Plus, they’re breaking the law by lighting up.
“Plaintiffs’ allegations amount to nothing more than their mistaken belief that they have the right to run their business and illegally smoke marijuana at any time of the day or night that they wish,” DeGregorio wrote.
Sheridan struck down the city’s prior attempt to get the lawsuit dismissed.
And Forchion, channeling famed New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, predicted the judge will take the same stance once his lawyer Edward Heyburn responds to the city’s “legally deficient” court brief“I’m gonna win this,” he said, in no uncertain terms. “I think I have a slam dunk case. Lesniak’s office should just concede right now and not run up the bills.”
Forchion, who filed a seperate lawsuit in state court against the city and police for false arrest, pointed out that since he filed the federal lawsuit the city has acknowledged the ordinance does not apply to him because he is in a business zone.
The marijuana activist is battling criminal drug and cyber-bullying cases as well as tickets in municipal court.
He was issued more than 20 citations for staying open late, and the city asked for the matter to be litigated in another municipality because of the federal lawsuit, Forchion said.
The city clerk Richard Kachmar used the tickets as justification to revoke Forchion’s business license, which was reinstated days later.
The curfew law only applies to businesses in residential zones.
“I think it’s a legally deficient, it’s disingenuous and the fact of the matter is the police were harassing me,” Forchion said. “They were trying to enforce a zoning ordinance that didn’t apply to me for eight months because Capt. Edelmiro Gonzalez can read or comprehend.”
DeGregorio argued in her papers Forchion is pretending to use his establishment a smoking sanctuary to people who use the plant under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which allows patients access to the drug to deal with debilitating illnesses with a doctor not.
Gov. Chris Christie extended that protection earlier this year to those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Forchion responded, “The state of New Jersey passed CUMMA, not me. You can smoke marijuana anywhere you can smoke cigarettes. Nothing I was doing is illegal. We had no problems until Capt. Gonzalez got his panties in a bunch when I closed the door in his face on Feb. 28.”
The marijuana activist said if he wins his million-dollar payday, he plans to give some of it back to residents — even though the city destroyed his restaurant.
“We’re a positive force in the community,” he said. “I wanted to have a community center for potheads.”