Ed Forchion doesn't deny it. There was a pound of marijuana - "high-grade California Kush" - in the trunk of his rent-a-wreck when he was stopped in Mount Holly on Thursday night by a state trooper.
The dreadlocked Rastafarian, better known as "NJ Weedman," who ran unsuccessfully for New Jersey governor and U.S. and state representative on the Marijuana Party ticket, was released from the Burlington County jail on Tuesday after posting $50,000 bail on drug possession and distribution charges.
He did not intend to be arrested, said Forchion, 45. "But now that I've been charged, it feels like destiny. That's exactly what I wanted to do."
Forchion, who moved from Browns Mills two years ago to open a medical-marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles called the Liberty Bell Temple, said he returned to South Jersey last week "to spend a little time in the courts."
Forchion has been a vocal critic of the New Jersey law, passed in January, that legalized marijuana use by patients with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other debilitating diseases.
"I was coming home on a mission to file some paperwork and challenge it," Forchion said on Tuesday.
The criminal statute in New Jersey states that marijuana has no medicinal value. The new measure does recognize a medical use for the drug, but only gives "a certain class of people" permission to use it, he said.
Forchion said the new law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
His arrest gives him the opportunity to take his stand to the New Jersey courts, he said.
"I'm going to fight," Forchion said, acknowledging that he could be sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted. "I'm not afraid to go to jail. I think I can win."
Forchion was driving a rented 2001 Pontiac Grand Am Thursday after 10 p.m. when he pulled up to a stop light on Route 38. He said he had been visiting his children in Burlington County and was headed to Camden County, where he planned to stay with other relatives.
A trooper who pulled alongside Forchion said the Pontiac rolled into the intersection before the light turned green, said Sgt. Steve Jones, a state police spokesman.
After stopping the Pontiac, the officer smelled burned marijuana and saw a glass smoking pipe on the rear floor. Forchion says the pound of marijuana troopers found in a suitcase was for personal use. He denied he had any intention of selling it.
"A pound of marijuana is like a carton of cigarettes to me. What do they think I was going to do? Sell nickel bags on the corner?" he scoffed. "I'm the Weedman."
By Sam Wood
April 7, 2010
The Philadelphia Inquirer
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'NJ Weedman' welcomes his arrest on marijuana charges