Got $42? You can party with Weedman, help reopen his ‘Joint’
TRENTON — The marijuana activist best known as NJ Weedman — fresh off a one-year stint in jail for charges that were ultimately dismissed — is planning a comeback.
He's scheduled a fundraiser and party to reopen "NJ Weedman's Joint" and "The Liberty Bell Temple" — the adjoining restaurant and marijuana temple shut down after a raid in 2016.
Ed Forchion had been facing several drug-dealing charges stemming from that raid that were 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 in May.
Because witness tampering is one of the few charges exempt from the state’s bail reform laws, Forchion had to sit behind bars for more than a year until his May acquittal. While in jail, he sued Trenton for not giving him petitions he needed to run for mayor until just before a filing deadline (he's also previously run for Congress and for governor).
Then, last month, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said most of the drug charges were being dismissed while a few would be prosecuted as misdemeanors in municipal court. More recently, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced an adjournment of all marijuana cases in municipal courts statewide until at least September, while the state figures out the best way to address such cases as legislators consider marijuana legalization.
In other words: The Weedman's out of his legal limbo, but his "Joint" remains closed. For now.
"People of all races and creeds gathered there and enjoyed good food, fellowship, artistic expression, and partook at this religious sanctuary," Forchion says in an event announcement for his fundraiser, scheduled for noon on Aug. 5, at 322 East State St., the restaurant's location.
Forchion has had several run-ins with the law over his establishment, including a number of tickets for operating after-hours. He's maintained those and his drug case were politically motivated. Forchion responded by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming the city was violating his religious freedom.
He said in that suit the “Kannabosum Kourtyard” provides a sanctuary where members of his temple can relax “away from the government-inspired ‘war on drugs’ and the problems the government creates on the streets with its asinine drug policies.”
“Our temple is an alternative religious organization that keeps night hours,” Forchion wrote in his suit. “We cater to the late-night congregation. We are not a business, but a temple.”
In 2016, after the raid that shut down the Joint, Forchion promised to give prosecutors a legal "ass whoppin'" in court.
He said at the time he he planned on defending himself in court and convincing a jury to acquit him by explaining that he doesn't deal drugs — he just shares. And if people feel like leaving some money in a donation jar, they can, he said.
Forchion had 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.
The Joint always had gotten a mixed reception from authorities — some were enthusiastically in favor. In 2015, state Sen. Shirley Turner, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and Assemblywoman Liz Muoio presented Forchion with an official, joint resolution by the state Senate and Assembly honoring the "culmination of an extensive planning and building process, which has been brought to fruition only through the extraordinary labors and efforts of a number of devoted people whose commitment to NJ Weedman’s Joint has been exceptional and unwavering."
Forchion told New Jersey 101.5 in 2016 he'd opened up the Joint's doors to the homeless, offering them a safe place to sleep. And he often served free food donated by himself and others, he said. He also lived at the Joint, on a couch bed in his office.
"We're peaceful potheads," Forchion said at the time.
According to the listing for the fundraiser and party, it'll continue until midnight. Tickets purchased online cost $42, and get attendees "lots of catered food (compliments of Burrinis Market), some live music, but most importantly a lot of PEACE & LOVE."
"POTHEADS, CANNABIS USERS, MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS and SPIRITUAL PARTAKERS, this event is for you," the event listing says. "The government's attack on NJWEEDMAN was an attack on you and he prevailed and now wants to re-open and again cater to you and your needs/wants/desires.
"ALTHOUGH NJWEEDMAN is out of JAIL he will not have actually won until he is RE-OPENED!"
— With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao
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