NJ Weedman: Cop’s bias against legal pot led to arrest
Ed Forchion, the perennial candidate and cannabis provocateur better known as the NJ Weedman, said that a police officer's personal bias against legalized marijuana led to his arrest on charges of marijuana possession in Wanaque early Saturday morning.
Forchion, 56, and passenger Dawn Perry, 29, of Freehold, were arrested around 12:25 a.m. on various drug offenses and traffic violations, according to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes.
The longtime advocate for the legalization of marijuana told New Jersey 101.5 he was found with a couple grams of marijuana, two vape pens and $9,000 in cash, which he said was seized by the arresting officer. The news release from Valdes did not mention the money and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Andrew C. Palestini would not disclose information about the cash citing the ongoing investigation.
Like his past brushes with the law, Forchion is confident he will prevail — and that this arrest will give a boost to a lawsuit he has filed against the Murphy administration, claiming that the public was misled about the November referendum legalizing recreational pot.
Forchion said that while he waited at the police station for the prosecutor to return the officer's call, the officer Google-searched Forchoin on Google and became aware of Forchion's past, which he says is the reason for the charge of intent to distribute.
Forchion, who owns a Trenton cafe that has been openly advertising the sale of illegal marijuana, said the officer simply didn't like his political stance on marijuana.
"This was a street robbery by the Wanaque police department," Forchion added.
"This guy started talking about the gateway theory. He started talking about kids and heroin. He did not like me. And he did not like the Weedmobile. And it will be part of my lawsuit that he used my free speech and my freedom of expression as justification to initiate police action."
While the Wannaque arrest will lead to more litigation, it will also be play a role in his ongoing lawsuit. Attorneys representing the state have asked a judge for time to file their reply.
"Most people thought they were voting to legalize marijuana when in fact, if you read the amendment and our existing marijuana laws, marijuana will remain illegal and I think the state bamboozled the citizens, hoodwinked them in the voting to give certain people — these 'cannabis cartels' — the opportunity to make billions while still continuing to illegalize the masses of us," Forchion said.
Forchion was charged with possession of marijuana under 50 grams, a disorderly persons offense; possession of hashish under 5 grams, a disorderly persons offense; possession with the intent to use drug paraphernalia, a disorderly persons offense; fourth-degree possession with the intent to distribute marijuana under 5 grams; fourth-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana; and three motor vehicle summons for improper or unclear plates, operation of a motor vehicle while in possession of drugs, and color of lights emitted.
Forchion said the marijuana was a little bit of "personal weed," which he had already smoked. Forchion said Perry was "not a co-conspirator; she caught an unfair charge."
He said he had been invited to get together in Greenwood Lake on Friday night and was driving there in his Weedmobile, which looks like a State Police car with "pot trooper" and badge number 420 written on the side.
The SUV also has a green license place light, which Forchion said got the attention of an officer who had been siting in his patrol vehicle in a parking lot.
"My license was good, my registration was good, my insurance is good. All my papers is good. But when he pulled me over he said he was pulling me over for the green light. And of course he said he smells marijuana," Forchion said.
Forchion said he and the officer went back and about the marijuana referendum. The officer called for backup and he began to search Forchion's vehicle.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has instructed all New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors to postpone low-level marijuana charges pending the outcome of legislation legalizing the use of adult recreational marijuana in New Jersey.
Forchion said the seized cash was from the night's business at his restaurant, as it's cash only, and he was going to use the money to buy money orders to pay his bills by mail. It was taken by the officer after a call was made to the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.
"The prosecutor's office took a long time to get back. Five hours later they got back and said 'seize the money.' And sure enough that's what he did. He seized my money and he charged me with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. I had no marijuana on me other than that little tiny bit, which is not a distributable amount," Forchion said.
Forchion plans to file a lawsuit to get the charges dropped and his cash returned.
"The marijuana case? Nothing. The conspiracy? We'll see what they get out of that. But the money? That's the fight," Forchion said.
Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law requiring prosecutors to wait until a property owner is found guilty before keeping seized assets under $10,000.
Perry was charged with possession of marijuana under 50 grams, possession of hashish under 5 grams, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana under 5 grams, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, and hindering apprehension or prosecution by giving false information to a law enforcement officer.
Forchion and Perry have a first court appearance scheduled for Feb. 22.
Matt Friedman, of Politico NJ, was the first to report about Forchion's arrest.