Jury Nullification Keeps NJ Weedman Out of Jail; DEA Comes Calling
Checking in on one man's war on the war on drugs
Last week, Ed Forchion, a.k.a. the NJ Weedman, was found not guilty of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after being caught by cops in New Jersey with a pound of marijuana in his car. Formerly a perennial third party candidate in the state, the Weedman took his activism in support of legalizing marijuana to California, where he opened a medical marijuana dispensary. He was caught in New Jersey while visiting and wanted to use the trial to test New Jersey's recent medical marijuana law, which requires registration and purchase from one of six dispensaries in the state. A pound of marijuana, because it is a lot of weed, automatically yields a possession with intent charge. The jury found him not guilty.
His California dispensary, meanwhile, had been raided in December by the DEA and, relentless, Forchion opened another one. The feds, though, have kept their eye on the Weedman. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Monica Yant Kinney explains his victory was short-lived:
"Two hours," Forchion gripes. "Two hours after I won, I got a call from the DEA in L.A. They had a 'Google Alert' on me. Sore losers."
…No federal charges were ever filed against Forchion, but the DEA still has his belongings. The phone call last Thursday was an invitation of sorts for him to stop by and pick up (some of) his stuff.
A day later, as Forchion remained in New Jersey, another DEA agent visited his new dispensary—the "United States Collective" conveniently located near the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
"I'll advise you to close by the end of business today," the agent reportedly said, "or we're going to launch another investigation and you'll be involved."
…I called the DEA Press Office in L.A. seeking comment, but Special Agent Sarah Pullen couldn't say anything about what she dubbed an "ongoing investigation."
"If Mr. Forchion wants to provide information, that is his choice."
Choice is one of Forchion's favorite words.
He chose to seek out an investor to open a second dispensary knowing the feds would come knocking and he could again lose everything.
He chose to put New Jersey's criminal statute up against the state's medical-marijuana law, to force jurors to question why a drug he can use legally in California to ease agony should cause him even more pain in the Garden State.
"You know," Forchion reminds, "I could still get 18 months in prison for being convicted of possession.
"I never denied that weed was mine. I admitted it."
You can't vote for the NJ Weedman for president this year, but there are at least a couple of candidates on the ballot that have admitted to drug use, Barack Obama, who's spent four years as president vigorously prosecuting the war on drugs, and another, Gary Johnson, who wants to end the war on, and legalize, drugs.
H/T Dan Pearson