Pubdate: Sat, 30 Apr 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian
Author: Penny Ray


TRENTON - Less than 30 hours after his East State Street businesses 
were raided by police, Ed Forchion was back at the Joint, rolling a 
joint and vowing to beat county prosecutors in court.

"They just gave me another platform to continue my goal," Forchion 
told The Trentonian at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, about two hours after his 
release from jail. "This is exactly what happened in Burlington 
County. I beat those prosecutors, and I'll beat the Mercer County 
Prosecutor's Office too. They're on the wrong side of history."

Forchion, who's a marijuana legalization activist known as NJ 
Weedman, was arrested Wednesday along with 10 other people when the 
county narcotics task force raided his restaurant, sanctuary and 
tobacco shop, which are adjoined and located across the street from City Hall.

Prosecutors say police confiscated $19,000 worth of marijuana during 
the raid, and seized cars and cash as suspected proceeds from drug 
sales. The arrests and seizures were the result of a two-month long 
investigation, and Forchion was charged with multiple drug possession 
and distribution offenses.

"It may have been worth a few hundred dollars, but $19,000 worth of 
weed...are they crazy?" Forchion said. "And distribution? What? They 
didn't catch me selling weed to no one. Just about everyone here is a 
smoker. So yes, there's weed here. But there's no distribution going 
on. They exaggerated big time."

Forchion said some of the edible marijuana products were leftover 
from a 420 celebration earlier this month. He also said patrons were 
scared when they saw cops with rifles, so some of them tossed their 
bags and Forchion was charged for having them.

"Sharing is part of the weed culture," Forchion said. "I share 
because I care, and it's wrong for them to criminalize that. A lot of 
people come in here with weed and we share. Sharing is not selling. 
We're not running any kind of illegal enterprise out of here."

In addition to the pot and paraphernalia offenses, Forchion was 
charged for having five ounces of promethazine on the property, which 
is a prescription antihistamine normally used to treat allergies and nausea.

"I didn't even know what promethazine was," Forchion said. "It turns 
out that my business partner has a prescription for it and the 
medicine was here."

Police also seized his digital video recorder and Weedmobile, Forchion said.

"I've been videotaping them, so they took my DVR and charged me for 
having it," Forchion said. "They said it's a crime to have a 
surveillance system if you're selling drugs. But we're not selling 
drugs. We sell turkey burgers."

Forchion believes the raid was the latest chapter in an ongoing feud 
he's having with politicians who oppose his religious beliefs and 
views on marijuana legalization.

Forchion is Rastafarian and his religious practices include ritual 
use of marijuana. He says the paperwork he filed with the state's 
division of taxation lists the property between the restaurant and 
tobacco shop as a "cannabis church." Forchion believes his church 
should be allowed to operate 24 hours a day, just as any Baptist 
church would be allowed to do. After police shut down his religious 
temple last month for violation of city code, Forchion filed an 
injunction in federal court to keep it open after 11 p.m.

"This is the politics of pot in New Jersey," Forchion said. "This is 
about certain people refusing to accept that I have a church next to 
my other businesses. One of the police officers even told me the 
operation wasn't initiated by the Trenton Police Department. They 
assisted in the investigation, but it was set in motion by someone 
else. Politics are in play here."

Prosecutors said the investigation that led to the raid was sparked 
by citizen complaints regarding constant foot traffic at the 
businesses and marijuana being sold from out of the building.

Forchion said he's "looking forward to the trial," and that he knows 
he has the public on his side in regard to marijuana laws.

"I'm a proponent of jury nullification and I'm going to take this to 
trial," Forchion said."Once again I get to publicly argue my case in 
court and be David fighting the Goliath of government."

Forchion is a freelance columnist for The Trentonian.
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