Pubdate: Thu, 10 Mar 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Author: Ben Finley, The Associated Press


TRENTON (AP) - After battling the legal system on two coasts and 
spending time in and out of prison, New Jersey's loudest champion of 
marijuana went legit last year when he opened up a restaurant across 
from city hall in this state's capital city.

Now, he's headed back to court.

Ed Forchion, better known as NJ Weedman, said Wednesday that Trenton 
police infringed on his religious rights after shutting down the 
cannabis temple attached to his restaurant for operating too late at 
night last weekend.

He has filed an injunction in federal court to keep his temple open 
after 11 p.m. That's when many of his 600 congregants gather, some to 
smoke marijuana on a property that includes a large white cross 
festooned with ornamental marijuana leaves.

Police cleared out his "cannabis church" early Saturday because of a 
city ordinance that limits a business's hours.

"I call it a midnight mass," Forchion said. "I grew up in the Baptist 
church and have been to plenty of midnight services and midnight 
revivals. I should have the same rights as the Shiloh Baptist Church."

Forchion often campaigns for political office under the banner of 
marijuana legalization. And he's been on a long crusade in the 
courts, claiming that marijuana laws infringe upon his Rastafarian 
religion and unfairly discriminate against black people.

Forchion filed a petition this week with the U.S. Supreme Court to 
challenge his 2010 conviction for marijuana possession. Previous 
efforts in New Jersey's state courts have failed.

"It's a long shot, but long shots do come in," said Forchion's 
attorney John Vincent Saykanic.

Forchion's temple and his adjacent restaurant, NJ Weedman's Joint, 
were his way of starting a legitimate business last summer. He had 
spent time in and out of prison for marijuana possession and 
sometimes sold the drug. In 2012, federal agents in California raided 
his pot farm, confiscating 600 plants.

The restaurant's clocks are all stuck at the time of 4:20. And the 
joint offers $4.20 specials that include the "Fully Baked Burger." 
For $7.10, customers can get the "Budz Nugz," grilled salmon nuggets 
over a bed of mixed greens.

"I'm promoting peace and love in a violent city,"

Forchion said. "It's the marijuana culture. We're much more likely to 
give something to you than take something from you."

The temple, however, has drawn Forchion back under the gaze of 
police. Trenton police Lt. Stephen Varn said that "numerous citizen 
complaints in the area, including shots fired" prompted officers to 
clear out the temple.

Varn said police also are investigating whether the temple is 
actually a church or a business.

The New Jersey Division of Taxation said that Forchion's temple is 
registered as a for-profit entity. But Forchion disputed that, saying 
the paperwork lists its purpose as being a "cannabis church." He also 
said it's a subsidiary of a similar temple he owned in California.

Forchion said he will refile the paperwork if he has to. But he said 
the recent shutdown of his temple is an unneeded distraction as he 
petitions the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I've had a quiet year and I'm looking to do big things," Forchion 
said. "And now they want to squash me."
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