NJ Weedman Ed Forchion Acquitted – Almost a Marijuana Martyr [POLL]
You look at him and you see a guy about whom you’d form a snap judgement and say, “guilty!”
But get to know Ed Forchion, otherwise known as NJ Weedman, and you’ll find a eloquent advocate for the use of medicinal marijuana and a passionate advocate for its legalization.
It’s not to say that he hasn’t indulged in the recreational use of pot; but the case he’s currently embroiled in now centers around a charge of intent to distribute, a charge he vehemently denies.
The decision came after Forchion was nearly held in contempt of court in the morning as he delivered his closing argument.
Forchion, formerly of Pemberton Township, tried to introduce his jury nullification argument into the closing, but was quickly stopped by Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who had barred any discussion of it.
Forchion began verbally sparring with Delehey, who then ordered the jury out of the room and told the defendant he would be held in contempt if he continued to ignore the court’s orders.
“If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you,” the judge said. “You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.”
Jury nullification would allow the jurors to disregard the law they were ordered to follow in considering the case and acquit a defendant, no matter what the evidence, in effect nullifying or invalidating the law.
Forchion, wearing a “Marijuana … It’s OK. It’s Just Illegal” T-shirt, refused to talk to his court-appointed attorney during the brief recess, but when Delehey and the jury returned, he toed the line and abandoned his blatant jury nullification pitch.
Instead, the legalization activist focused the jury on his plight as a licensed medical marijuana patient in California who brought a pound of pot to New Jersey in April 2010 for his own use.
The state alleged that because of the sheer volume of the marijuana, his intent was to distribute it. Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano told the jury that the case was not “a political referendum” on medical marijuana or legalization.
Luciano also said the numbers and common sense should lead to a guilty verdict, noting that Forchion had enough pot on him when he was stopped by police in Mount Holly on April 1, 2010, to smoke for months.
“He had more than any person could smoke on their own,” Luciano said, reminding the jurors that they didn’t have to find he was selling it to convict him and that sharing also constitutes distribution. “He was going to distribute this for profit. He was going to distribute it because that’s what he believes, that’s his drug, that’s his food and that’s his plant.”
So, you see, the prosecutor was going to put himself in the head of the defendant and assume that the weight of the substance was enough to convince a jury of Weedman's intent to distribute.
Which went against the testimony of Forchion's expert witness.
Andrew Mastella, a retired New Jersey trooper and veteran narcotics detective, said scales, baggies, and customer records strengthen the cases of prosecutors pressing charges of drug possession with intent to deliver.
But if that kind of paraphernalia is not found, as was the case when Jersey troopers busted Ed “Weedman” Forchion on April Fool’s Day in 2010, then the amount doesn’t automatically mean he’s a drug dealer.
Mastella, echoing the state’s expert witness from Tuesday, said it was a matter of law enforcement policy to charge people carrying that much pot as suspected dealers and let the judges and juries decide the truth in court.
For as long as I’ve followed Ed and his story, I’ve always come away with the notion that he’s sort of a Quixotic figure tilting at the windmills of the laws against the use of marijuana….either for medicinal or recreational purposes.
A marijuana martyr if you will.
But not to be a martyr today, almost, had he not bailed on the "jury nullification" tactic.
Had you been sitting on the jury, how would you have voted?