Defeated prosecutors drop case against NJ Weedman — But he’s not happy!
TRENTON — Prosecutors in Mercer County have dropped or dismissed the remaining criminal charges against a notorious marijuana activist who spent months in jail before being found not guilty by a jury.
But Ed Forchion, more commonly known as “NJ Weedman,” won’t be lighting up in celebration.
“I kind of feel disappointed. I know most people would be happy,” he said Wednesday after hearing the news from a reporter. “I was looking forward to going to trial. No jury would convict me. It’s all been nothing but a police vendetta against me.”
Prosecutors on Wednesday cited “the recent shift in the climate of marijuana legislation in New Jersey” and the fact that Forchion had spent a year in jail even though he was never found guilty as a reason for their sudden move.
Forchion had been facing numerous drug-dealing charges stemming from a March 2016 raid on his restaurant and marijuana temple, located across the street from 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.
Because witness tampering is one of the few charges exempt from the state’s new bail reform laws, Forchion had to sit behind bars with no chance at bail for more than a year until his acquittal last month.
In a statement on Wednesday, 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.
In the 11-count indictment, four charges of fourth-degree possession of a drug were downgraded to disorderly persons charges of possession of marijuana less than 50 grams.
A third-degree charge of possession of a drug, which had not yet been presented to a grand jury, was downgraded to a disorderly persons offense of possession of marijuana less than 50 grams.
A separate charge of cyber-harassment — which had been filed by a Trenton cop who Forchion had called a pedophile in a video posted by someone else on Facebook — was downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said the charge is unconstitutional but prosecutors got a grand jury to indict.
A spokeswoman for Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said Wednesday that the decision to drop charges against Forchion and two co-defendants did not mean the office would stop prosecuting drug cases.
"Every case handled by our office, from drug cases to economic crime to violent crime, is looked at individually and judged on its own unique set of facts and circumstances. We felt the downgrade and dismissal in these three cases were appropriate," Casey DeBlasio said.
The office's statement said growing support for marijuana legalization coupled with bail reform called "for an adjustment in the way the office most appropriately uses its resources and assistance from other law enforcement agencies in order to prioritize cases such as murders, attempted murders and violent crime."
Forchion, who calls himself “conviction proof” and who promised in 2016 to beat prosecutors in court, said Wednesday that he worries about being found guilty by a Municipal Court judge, which could mean fines, penalties against his driver’s license or leading city officials to declare his business a nuisance.
His restaurant — Weedman’s Joint — remains closed. Forchion says he needs several thousands of dollars to reopen.
Meanwhile, he’s suing the city of Trenton in federal district court for civil rights violations and is considering adding the county prosecutors to the litigation.
Forchion, who had been facing more than two decades in prison last year, said prosecutors never offered him a plea deal — although he’s quick to point out that he never would have accepted one.
"I got dragged through the mud and I was left to dry. I got beat up by the government," he said. “Just to dismiss it, on numerous levels it’s a letdown.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated to include the specific downgraded charges.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.