If you don’t know about NJWeedman, and you consume marijuana, where have you been smoking your marijuana, under a rock? Meeting NJWeedman was on my bucket list for several years now, and I’m happy to say I had that honor at the activism panel at the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Los Angeles. The first time I ever saw NJWeedman on video was footage of a pro-marijuana protest NJWeedman was being arrested at. As the cops put the handcuffs on NJWeedman, NJWeedman just kept taking hits from his blunt and blowing the smoke in the cops’ faces. It was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen to this day.
NJWeedman even mailed marijuana to politicians in a form of marijuana prohibition protest! I could try to tell the story of NJWeedman myself, but I will let him do it. Here is the ‘about’ page from NJWeedman’s official website:
Robert Edward Forchion (born July 23, 1964), also known as NJWEEDMAN, is a cannabis activist and a perennial candidate for various New Jersey elected offices. Forchion identifies himself as a member of the Legalize Marijuana Party and campaigns primarily on the single issue of cannabis legalization. Forchion has done various stunts to bring attention to cannabis legalization, including smoking cannabis in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, as well as attempting to legally change his name to NJWeedman.com.
Forchion is a resident of Browns Mills, New Jersey, a section of Pemberton Township, New Jersey.
Life before politics and activism
At the age of 15, Forchion smoked his first marijuana cigarette and was “immediately impressed by its medical healing powers, in regard to his asthma.” By age 18 he was a regular user of marijuana, and he dismissed the Surgeon General’s claims of its harms as “propaganda and Christian superstitions”.
In 1982 upon graduation from Edgewood Regional High School in Atco, New Jersey, he enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard and enrolled at Claflin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina. In 1986 he received an honorable discharge from the NJ National Guard and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps without marijuana, he had an asthma attack and was medically discharged. After being discharged from the Marine Corps, he changed his name to Edward and enlisted in the United States Army. While in the army he used cannabis despite the warnings from the government, to control his asthma. On April 18, 1988 he married his first wife Pam in Fort Bliss, Texas, and in 1990 he receive an honorable discharge from the army. He became a coast-to-coast trucker using his own truck he purchased in 1994.
In 1995 Forchion became a practicing Rastafarian.
He proudly admits he was a “marijuana smuggler”, driving hundreds of pounds of cannabis from Arizona border towns to east coast cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, Philadelphia, New York City and Camden, New Jersey. His Mexican/Cuban suppliers in Arizona were the first to dub him The New Jersey Weedman, because while other drugs were available for transport he only wanted to transport cannabis.
On November 24, 1997 he was arrested by the Camden County Drug Task Force and members of the local DEA – On December 1, 2000 after a very public trial, Forchion accepted a plea deal and was convicted and sentenced to 10 years by Judge Ronald Thompson. He was released after 17 months on April 3, 2002 into the state’s ISP. (Intensive Supervision Program). His ISP officers ordered him not to talk about cannabis and re-imprisoned him August 19, 2002 when he refused to comply with what he regarded as an illegal order. Upon re-imprisonment he filed a pro se “Writ of Habeas Corpus” to the Federal Courts, alleging he was a political prisoner of New Jersey’s War on Drugs. – On January 24, 2003 Federal Judge Irenas agreed with Forchion and ruled in Forchion Vs New Jersey that his imprisonment was a violation of his right to Free Speech and ordered him freed. To celebrate his freedom Forchion held monthly religious services at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, where he consumed marijuana. This resulted in the federal case he sought USA Vs Forchion.
Forchion simultaneously fought the state of New Jersey’s newly enacted DNA law, for several months his case put on hold the state’s new DNA law. Eventually Forchion won his DNA case and was not obligated to surrender his DNA.
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and the State of New Jersey successfully fought his petition to legally change his name to that of his website: NJWeedman.com.
Forchion constantly had run-ins with New Jersey state authorities for what he described as exercising his free speech and what authorities described as advocating criminal activity.
In 2008 Forchion fled to California seeking Asylum, leaving the garden state for the pot friendly evirons of Los Angeles. Forchion claimed he was living in political exile, having fled the official persecution of NJ State authorities for his political veiws on marijuana legalization.
In 2009 he opened a Rastafarian Temple on Hollywood Blvd., named the Liberty Bell Temple II, after a series of protest he held at the Liberty bell in Philadelphia. At the Liberty Bell Temple he provided marijuana to hundreds of sick people every week, doing what he preached about in New Jersey. Being in Hollywood he quickly became a “hollywood personia”, providing marijuana to patients and celbrities alike. NJweedman opened a party promotions company called NJWEEDMANPROMOTIONS. He stopped calling himself a “marijuana activist” and instead insisting he was now a “marijuana capitalist”. He started hosting huge marijuana mansion parties in the Hollywood Hills where he openly provided marijuana to all the guests.
He appeared in several documentaries, TV shows and music videos.
In 2010 Forchion became a author, of his own biogaphy titled NJweedman Super-heros of the Potheads ISBN/1450530311 first published on Jan 18th, 2010 ironically the same day New Jersey legalized Marijuana for medical purposes making Forchion feel vindicated for his decade of activism.
In 1998 as a way of supporting his planned Jury Nullification defense to the charges he was facing he announced the formation of the Legalize Marijuana Party and his intention to run for a seat on the Camden County Freeholders board and the first district Congressional seat. He now claims this was a successful tactic and has since continued to run for offices as a protest to the cannabis laws. Forchion now has a history of running for various state and federal offices as an independent candidate. Forchion has never been successful in any of his attempts for public office, which he acknowledges isn’t even his goal.
2005 Governor of New Jersey race
Forchion ran for Governor of New Jersey in 2005 under the slogan of “Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)- Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians”. As with his prior campaigns, Forchion ran largely on cannabis legislation. In his official statement mailed with the sample ballots to registered New Jersey voters, Forchion accuses the “Christian Government and law enforcement officers who rely on this ungodly racist WAR ON DRUGS for their livelihoods” as interfering with his rights to freedom of religion and speech. In particular, he notes that his religion of Rastafari and his “belief that our herb/sacrament is good” is oppressed. His statement ended with the slogans “TAKE A TOKE, THEN VOTE” and “ENEMY OF THE STATE” written in capital letters.
The Governor election was held on November 8, 2005. Of the ten candidates appearing on the ballot for Governor, Forchion came in sixth place with 8,271 votes, according to unofficial election results provided by the State of New Jersey. The election was won by Democrat Jon Corzine.
2006 United States Senate election, New Jersey
Forchion ran for US Senator from New Jersey in 2006. He was placed on the ballot with the same “Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)” slogan. Forchion came in fourth place with 11,593 votes, or approximately 0.5% of the vote according to the official vote tallies. Forchion finished behind Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez, Republican candidate Thomas Kean, Jr., and Libertarian Len Flynn, but ahead of five other candidates.
2008 Congressional Campaign, New Jersey
Forchion announced that he would run for the 3rd Congressional seat in New Jersey being vacated by Jim Saxton. He will be running under the “Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)” Party. He was the only independent running against Republican Chris Myers and Democrat John Adler. The Burlington County Democratic Party challenged Forchion’s petition and he was removed from the ballot due to insignificant number of valid signatures.
Forchion ran in 2005 for a Congressional seat from New Jersey, garnering 4,914 votes, approximately 1.6% of the vote. He lost to incumbent Jim Saxton, Republican. In both 1998 and 2000, Forchion ran and lost against incumbent Congressman Rob Andrews, Democrat, receiving 1257 votes and 1959 votes, respectively. In his 1998 campaign, Forchion had not yet taken the moniker of NJWeedman, and instead ran as an independent simply as “Rob.”
Besides the above campaigns for Congress, Forchion also ran for New Jersey General Assembly. In 1999, Forchion received 947 votes and lost to incumbents Francis L. Bodine and Larry Chatzidakis, both Republicans.
Forchion was incarcerated in Camden, New Jersey for various drug related charges. The dates of his incarceration were between December 1, 2000 and April 3, 2002. Forchion’s offenses included the following:
1 count/merged count of : 2C:5-2*2 Conspiracy
1 count/merged count of : 2C:35-5*2 CDS/Manufacture, Distribute, Dispense
1 count/merged count of : 2C:20-7*3 Receiving Stolen Property
1 count/merged count of : 2C:20-3*3 Theft by Unlawful Taking/Disposition
According to his official statement mailed with the sample ballots during his 2005 candidacy for New Jersey Governor, Forchion notes that “I’ve been jailed without the right to a fair trial (2000), imprisoned for simply saying LEGALIZE IT”. Forchion describes himself as a former political prisoner for his views.
Forchion was jailed from August 19. 2002 – Jan 24, 2003 by the State of New Jersey for attempting to air political ads calling for the end of the war on drugs. He was charged with advocating criminal activity; Forchion claimed it was a violation of his first amendment rights and filed a writ of habeas corpus. U.S. District court Judge Irena’s held hearings and agreed that his imprisonment was a violation of his right to freedom of speech and ordered him freed saying; “Many elected public officials have called for a liberalization of the nation’s drug laws. Simply put, Plaintiff’s place in this debate will do nothing to harm a public that is already itself debating the current state of our nation’s drug laws.” Forchion was represented by New Jersey criminal defense attorney John Vincent Saykanic.
On April 1, 2010, Ed Forchion, aka NJWeedman made headlines. He was busted in New Jersey with a pound of cannibus in the trunk of his car. April Fool’s Day was playing itself out in full glory. The man, notorious for his run-ins with the New Jersey law, now a transplant living in California and dispensing medical marijuana legally on a daily basis, returns home to get….arrested! And so the saga continues for NJWeedman, America’s most prominent Black activist for the legalization of marijuana.
Ironically, as the owner of his own medical marijuana dispensary in Hollywood, CA now, his arrest was a coup of sorts for the New Jersey police.
Indeed, it was an April Fool’s Day tale the media could not resist. Yet while Ed Forchion’s arrest in Mount Holly, NJ made front page news, his trial will be likely be heralded as marijuana’s own Roe vs. Wade case. Forchion plans to represent himself and utilize an open advocation of Jury Nullification as a defense to his charges. Since the New Jersey Constitution at Article 1 paragraph 6, allows a jury to judge the law as well as the facts in a case, Forchion wants the jury to recognize that the New Jersey marijuana laws are unjust and thereby acquit him.
As the founder of the Legalize Marijuana Party, Forchion is no newcomer to the politics game. He ran campaigns for Governor, Congress, the State Legislature, and the Burlington County Board of Freeholders. As detailed in his recently released tome, “Public Enemy #420” (https://www.createspace.com/3425534 ) Forchion has a history that spans decades in his quest for his right to smoke marijuana legally. With this recent arrest, the cannabis activist will add a new chapter to his life story as he represents himself in the case and brings to the forefront once again, the rarely discussed issue of “jury nullification.”
This will be Forchion’s second bid to bring the issue of jury nullification to the forefront of the judicial system. A practicing Rastafarian, he faced up to 30 years in prison back in 2000 when he was arrested and charged with conspiracy and possession of over 40 pounds of marijuana. He acted as his own defense counsel then, with a defense of religion, medical and open avocation of jury nullification. The issue of jury nullification so rattled the courts back then that he was offered a plea bargain, which he took, avoiding a possible jail sentence. To this date, he regrets that decision. He envisions this case as another opportunity to bring jury nullification back to the forefront.
NJWeedman plans to utilize jury nullification once again to fight to not only have his charges dropped, but he also plans to file a lawsuit against the state to overturn the state’s medical marijuana law. Forchion believes the New Jersey law is unconstitutional for allowing terminally ill people to possess marijuana while state criminal law prohibits anyone else from possessing pot.
“The state should not be able to have two legal descriptions of the same substance,” Forchion states. “How can the state be allowed to have it both ways? Arresting some people on criminal laws that state marijuana has no medical value and also allowing others to use marijuana for medical use. Isn’t that a violation of the 14th amendments right to equal protection of the law says Forchion between puffs of sticky icky.
Forchion’s defense raises heckles in the legal establishment, but it’s based on the time honored doctrine. “Jury nullification of law,” as it is sometimes called, is a traditional American right defended by the Founding Fathers. Those Patriots intended the jury to serve as one of the tests a law must pass before it assumes enough popular authority to be enforced. Thus the Constitution provides five separate tribunals with veto power — representatives, senate, executive, judges and JURY — that each enactment of law must pass before it gains the authority to punish those who choose to violate it.
“There is a reefer revolution going on in this country and it can’t be denied. 14 states now recognize the medicinal value of this sacred herb on some level. By purporting the issue of jury nullification, I’m just looking for one juror to examine the New Jersey marijuana laws and recognize the contradictions in it. Not guilty is the verdict I’m hoping for,” cites Forchion. “I’m openly going to challenge my jury to render a verdict in spite of the law. The law is wrong, based on lies and false facts. I wish to tell my jurors the truth about marijuana. I want to tell the jury that this law I’m charged with violating is wrong not I.”
NJWeedman is a cult figure in the marijuana legalization community. He achieved media notoriety when he was front of the entire New Jersey State Assembly in 2000, then gained national attention when he fired it up at Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA during the republican national convention there.
Upon fleeing the tyrants of the New Jersey court system in 2008, relocating to Los Angeles a few years ago in what he calls a self-imposed political asylum – or exile, he has opened his own legal medical marijuana dispensary, The Liberty Bell Temple. The dispensary is located at 5641 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, CA and represents the basic concepts of democracy and faith.
Forchion until this arrest has claimed he was no longer a weed activist and instead insisted he was a weed capitalist. Now ironically he has been forced by this arrest to once again be a the WEED ACTIVIST that got him famous, NJweedman Super-hero to the Potheads.
Forchion is continually fueling his advocacy for the medical marijuana movement. His ‘pot parties’ are now legendary in Hollywood and he recently stirred controversy with his “Obama One Year in Office” party celebration. His NJ Weedman video series, filmed from the shop and seen on his website http://www.libertybelltemple.com/ and at YouTube.com, commands a following of viewers from around the world. He regularly updates his footage with vivid coverage of the happenings in his shop, including specials on the vast varietals of medicinal marijuana he is now able to serve up legally, daily to his patients.