Weedman dares prosecutors to bust him for selling pot — says it’s racial
TRENTON — The man popularly known as NJ Weedman has only been free for a few months after spending more than a year in jail — but he said he's so upset with a proposed marijuana legalization bill he's ready to go back.
In an email sent Tuesday, Ed Forchion challenged the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office — specifically county Prosecutor Angelo Onofri and two of the prosecutors on ihs team — to arrest him for selling marijuana.
"I think im UNCONVICTABLE and i'm totally down on RUBBING your faces in it and proving it a 3rd time. ( IM A TRUE BELIEVER IN JURY NULLIFICATION ) and I know thats really why you F***ERS locked me up for nearly 16 months. Im about to show the world about JURY NULLIFICATION," he wrote.
Forchion CC'd New Jersey 101.5 on the message. It's quoted with only profanity censored. The punctuation and spellings quoted are his. It continues:
"....Im going to start selling WEED like the 'WHITE GUYS' and I dare ( i hope actually) you to arrest me and prosecute me again, since you chickened out on the MARIJUANA CASE YOU INDICTED ME FOR A STOLEN MY POSSESIONS
What jury will find me GUILTY. NONE."
The email also links to a Vice article calling Forchion "the hero America needs" and praising him for being "a perpetual thumb in the eye of the establishment."
Forchion told New Jersey 101.5 he spent two decades advocating for the legalization of marijuana, but said a version of the legalization law being considered would still leave him and others out in the cold — because it would prohibit felons from selling marijuana in the state.
"So many people are happy with it and the hood is not happy with it," he said of the proposed bill. "Black guys, me, the people like me, we are still going to be illegal."
Forchion told New Jersey 101.5 he he plans to set up a table outside the state annex in Trenton on Thursday, near where Gov. Murphy's office is, and sell dime bags of marijuana.
The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office declined to comment on Forchion's email or plans.
"I'm giving the finger to the system. A system that is overlooking me," Forchion said. "I'm not worried about the prosecution because I'm pretty sure I'm going to give the prosecutor a third legal a**-whooping. My only concern is they would use the bail reform again to hold me in jail."
Forchion has faced off against police and prosecutors multiple times. Most recently, Forchion had been facing numerous drug-dealing charges stemming from a March 2016 raid on his restaurant and, as he describes it, "marijuana temple," located across the street from Trenton City Hall.
The trial on those counts had been put on hold after prosecutors last year slapped him with witness tampering charges. He was found not guilty on those charges during trials in November and last month and eventually released from jail after more than a year.
In June, prosecutors dropped remaining charges, citing the changing political climate on marijuana law.
Getting a jury to return a not-guilty verdict based on their belief that a law is unjust is a concept known as jury nullification — and judges in New Jersey don't allow defendants to instruct juries to do this. But Forchion has fought the law before and won. He defended himself in a 2012 trial on drug-dealing charges but was found not guilty after a retrial.
In 2003 he convinced a federal judge to release him from prison after he was jailed for advocating marijuana law reforms, which officials claimed violated his parole. Forchion had pleaded guilty in 2000 to drug dealing charges after he and his brother picked up a 40-pound package of marijuana that had been shipped by FedEx. Forchion was sentenced to 10 years but was released on parole after 16 months.
Forchion said this week that he was at one time a major seller of marijuana, before shifting his focus to being an advocate for changing the law. In 20 years, he said, he has never had a problem buying weed, albeit illegally, but was looking forward to being able to sell it legally when legalization came to the state.
Assemblyman Nicholas Scutari told InsiderNJ in June that his proposed legislation would "eliminate the draconian laws and penalties currently in place and improve social justice issues in urban areas.
"Law-abiding adults will be able to partake legally and safely knowing exactly what they're ingesting," he added.
According to a copy of bill 2703, which Scutari sponsors, a person convicted of a crime involving any controlled dangerous substance would not be eligible for several licenses covered by the law, including for growing, processing or selling marijuana.
Forchion said he has worked to reopen his "NJ Weedman's Joint and "The Liberty Bell Temple," his restaurant and temple that were closed in 2016. The goal, he said was to sell marijuana legally, which, as a convict from a charge in the 1990s, he would not be allowed to do under the Scutari bill.
"I want to be legal. Now they're making it legal, but they're making it illegal for certain people to sell it," he said. "The hood can't sell it. They're creating what I call a 'white only' industry — the 'CCC,' the Caucasian Cannabis Corporation."
Forchion called the premise of legalization under Scutari's plan a "nightmare" for people like him, especially since his conviction in 1997 was connected to marijuana.
"I'm a felon for weed. I didn't shoot anybody. I didn't rob anybody. I'm a felon for weed," he said. "I saw legalization coming. I was saying 'I'm going to be in the best possible situation for when legalization comes.' Now a nightmare is happening because Scutari has written into the bill you can't be a felon and participate in this," Forchion said.
Last week, state Senate President Steve Sweeney told New Jersey 101.5 that he has spent more than 15 hours working with members of the Assembly and other legislators on legislation that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. He said those involved in the discussions were "pretty close on a lot of issues," but that Murphy would have to be on board too.
The tax rate for marijuana seems to be the biggest sticking point with the legislature proposing a 10 percent rate, while the governor's office had proposed a 25 percent rate in March.
"We're going to have to have a lag. Even if we vote to approve medical and recreational, we can't bring recreational in right now, because we have to make sure we have enough supply for medical," he said. "A lot of places where they've done both, the medical side has suffered."
A recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed 62 percent of registered voters support allowing adults in New Jersey to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The poll also showed that 33 percent are still opposed to the idea. The same Quinnipiac poll showed 63 percent of registered voters are in favor of erasing criminal records.
Several towns and counties in the state have already passed laws and ordinances banning marijuana sales even before a bill legalizing the drug has been introduced in Trenton.
Previous reporting by Michael Symons and Sergio Bichao was included in this story.