Pubdate: Tue, 16 Aug 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian
Author: Isaac Avilucea


TRENTON - Marijuana activist Ed Forchion gave a famous Los Angeles 
graffiti artist $300 cash, an ounce of weed and an expensive bong to 
paint a political statement on the side of his "Weedmobile" in 2008.

The provocative portrait showed NJ Weedman blowing smoke into Uncle 
Sam's face. The van would later become a rolling billboard for 
Forchion's Trenton restaurant and pot temple, capturing in 
cartoonishly large candor his pro-marijuana views and disdain for New 
Jersey's "hypocritical" drug laws.

He drove it back and forth to court in Burlington County, where he 
employed a nullification tactic he has promised to use again to 
convince a jury to acquit him of distribution charges in his drug 
case in Mercer County.

"Just like [Douglas] MacArthur rode the submarine back from the 
Philippines, I felt the same way about the van," Forchion said, 
likening it to the general's famous escape during World War II.

The van was an apparent "irritant" to Trenton Police. And it was 
recently reduced to a block of red, white and green metal, Forchion said.

For the outspoken marijuana legalization advocate, his van, which he 
claims authorities seized illegally during an April raid, now 
symbolizes the unfairness and unwieldiness of the state's civil 
forfeiture laws, which were derided by one Washington D.C. 
libertarian think tank as among the worst in the country.

"They use asset forfeiture to steal your stuff," said Forchion, who 
is facing myriad drug charges following a raid on his city 
businesses. "It's crap. It's entirely against what the Founding 
Fathers envisioned. The Fourth Amendment virtually doesn't exist 
anymore because of the War of Drugs. I want my history back."

A police spokesman could not comment because of ongoing litigation 
between the department and Forchion.

The destruction of the Weedmobile was the latest chapter in 
Forchion's somewhat Pyrrhic struggle with city officials, police and 

Forchion was in court last week battling to regain belongings seized 
during the drug raid.

During the raid, the Weedmobile was seized along with Forchion's 
delivery truck and his girlfriend's car.

The roundup also led to the seizure of $19,000 worth of marijuana, 
officials said, and the arrests of 11 people, including Forchion.

Forchion called the amount "prosecutor math" and "propaganda they 
sell to the public" to prove marijuana is bad.

Last week, a judge denied Forchion's request to get back surveillance 
tapes and video equipment he says proves Trenton Police perjured 
themselves in a federal lawsuit he brought against the city a month 
before the raid.

The lawsuit stemmed from a pair of late-night visits police paid to 
Forchion's restaurant and pot temple.

Forchion said that when he went to try to get the vehicles back, 
police would only release his girlfriend's car.

He was told that the Weedmobile and the delivery truck were withheld 
under New Jersey's civil forfeiture law, which allows authorities to 
take property they believe was purchased or used in furtherance of a crime.

A report released last year by the Institute for Justice found that 
New Jersey has "some of the worst" civil forfeiture laws in the 
country." The think tank gave the Garden State a D-, noting that law 
enforcement can seize and retain people's property in the absence of 
a criminal conviction.

The report noted that county prosecutors collected more than $72 
million in forfeitures from 2009 to 2013  some of that money used to 
fund police initiatives such as body cams, according to published reports.

The report also pointed to a lack of regulations requiring New Jersey 
law enforcement track and report forfeitures.

Forchion said that despite being told by Trenton Police that his 
vehicles were being kept, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office filed 
a civil forfeiture for only $400 in cash found on him, at his 
businesses and inside a donation jar.

He said prosecutors did not go after the vehicles and he planned to 
fight in court to get them back.

But he found out this week from the owner of Hawk's Towing and 
Recovery, that the Weedmobile was crushed down to a metal block after 
it was impounded and towed to the lot. Forchion had 20 days to pick 
it up and pay the fees or it was considered abandoned, owner Brian 
"Hawk" Hawkins said.

Forchion said police misinformation prevented him from getting the 
van out of the lot in time.

He said the van had so much sentimental value.

After purchasing the gasguzzling 1986 Ford E-150 for $1,400 from a 
man in Studio City, California, Forchion drove the Weedmobile to New 
Jersey to restart his life. He decked it out with intricate colorful 
murals of marijuana, paraphernalia and the words "God grown."

Forchion also slapped on some $2,500 rims.

What upset Forchion is he believes police took the vehicle as part of 
a retaliatory campaign to put him out of business.

"It wasn't worth selling," Forchion said. "It was only valuable to me."

Forchion points to other actions police have taken against him, like 
when he was arrested for alleged cyber-bulling after he called a 
Trenton cop a pedophile.

He has also been issued numerous tickets, including one he received 
months after he sparked up a joint at City Hall.

Forchion believes police didn't like the Weedmobile's message. But 
feels that message will resonate with a jury.

"It's symbolic of the harassment I've been receiving for the last few 
months," he said. "It was done illegally. I think it was done 
personally and it was done with spite in their hearts. ... I'm not a 
rapist, a robber, a murder. I just smoke weed. The law's wrong, not 
me. Twenty-six states have disregarded the federal government's 
marijuana laws. I find it hypocritical that the state of New Jersey 
is violating federal law by having dispensaries but also prosecuting 
me. They're going to be publicly embarrassed by this dread-headed, 
noneducated Negro."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom