Edward Forchion

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Robert Edward Forchion (born July 23, 1964), is an American cannabis activist and a perennial candidate for various New Jersey elected offices. He is a resident of the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Township, New Jersey and California.

Forchion identifies himself as the founding member of the Legalize Marijuana Party and has campaigned primarily on the single issue of cannabis legalization. Forchion has performed various stunts to bring attention to cannabis legalization, including smoking cannabis in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, as well as attempting to legally change his name to NJWeedman.com.[1] Forchion has appeared before U.S. courts multiple times - both as a defendant facing marijuana possession charges, and a plaintiff in civil rights actions pertaining to marijuana advocacy and consumption.

The Liberty Bell Temple in Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard, founded by Edward Forchion in 2008

In 2008 he opened the Liberty Bell Temple II at 5642 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood California, a Rastafarian themed medical marijuana collective.

Bone Cancer[edit]

Forchion was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer in 2001 at Riverfront State Prison, while serving time on a 2000 marijuana conviction. He continues to suffer from painful giant cell tumors as well as benign cancerous lesions. He successfully applied for and became a registered medical marijuana patient in the State of California in 2006 for chronic pain. As well the retardation of tumor growths, marijuana has been shown to shrink and slow the growth of tumors. His medical condition was central to his 2012 trial, and subsequent acquittal.

Life before politics and activism[edit]

In his online autobiography,[2] Forchion reflects upon his first encounter with marijuana. He was only fourteen. He muses, "I was instantly impressed with its medicinal healing powers, in regards to my [asthma]." He also states in an interview with The Trentonian: "I was 15 when I first got busted for smoking weed by my parents. To this day, my mother is against it, and just wishes I would shut up about it."[3]

In 1982, upon graduation from Edgewood Regional High School in Atco, New Jersey, he enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard and enrolled at Claflin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina. "[4] In 1985, he received an honorable discharge from the New Jersey National Guard. Upon National Guard discharge, Forchion enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. While serving in USMC, Forchion was unable to use marijuana. He ended up leaving the Marine corps via medical discharge after suffering a severe asthma attack, "[5] After being discharged from the Marine Corps, he changed his name to Edward Robert Forchion, and fraudulently enlisted in the United States Army. Despite the warnings from the government, Forchion continued to use cannabis medicinally, as well as socially, throughout his enlistment in the Army. "[6] On April 18, 1988, he married his first wife Pam at Fort Bliss, Texas. Not long after, on June 21, 1990, he received an honorable discharge from the Army. Leaving the military life behind, Forchion took several jobs as a long distance truck driver. The life of a trucker seemed to agree with Forchion, who, in 1993, bought and started his own coast to coast trucking company, aptly named, "Forchion Trucking, inc."

According to his website ( www.njweedman.com ), Forchion became a practicing Rastafarianin 1994.[2]

Forchion proudly admits he was a "marijuana smuggler"",[7] driving hundreds of pounds of cannabis from the US/Mexico border, primarily border towns in Texas and Arizona. He would then transport these goods to the east coast cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, Philadelphia, New York City and Camden, New Jersey. In 1994, he was first dubbed "The New Jersey Weedman," because his Mexican suppliers in Arizona noted that while other drugs were available for transport, he was only interested in trafficking marijuana.

Legal matters[edit]

Edward Forchion has several convictions, as well as a high profile acquittal (2012), for marijuana possession. Forchion also has a Federal "Habeas Corpus" free speech case (FORCHION vs ISP )that was unique. Forchion puts himself at risk for arrest for laws criminalizing the consumption, possession, and transport of the drug, as he interprets U.S. Constitutional protections on religious freedom allows him to circumvent these laws. As outlined in the following sections, Forchion has challenged, and U.S. courts have so far rejected, his interpretation of the law:[8] While a jury in 2012 did acquit him despite his being in violation of the law.

2000 marijuana conviction[edit]

On November 24, 1997, Forchion was arrested on marijuana trafficking charges by the Camden County Drug Task Force and locally-based DEA agents, after being found in possession of over 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms) of the drug ( 39 lbs.,). As trial commenced, a plea deal was offered: Forchion would plead guilty in exchange for a flat 10-year prison sentence. On September 20, 2000, he was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana by Judge Ronald Thompson and started his sentence.[9]

Habeas corpus case (Freedom of Speech)[edit]

Forchion was released after 17 months on April 3, 2002 into New Jersey's Intensive Supervision Parole (ISP). He was ordered, forbidden from "promoting the use of marijuana" as a parole condition. Parole officers considered Forchion's speaking to the press, in specific, The Trentonian and "various Philadelphia newspapers", as a violation of this condition. While he considered it an exercise in "Freedom of Speech". Furthermore, parole officers were informed that "[Forchion] had been handing out fliers and protesting in front of the Burlington County Courthouse regarding the legalization of marijuana". Forchion was re-imprisoned because of this on June 6, 2002, only to be released four days later. But he continued to violate the conditions of his parole, Forchion contracted with Comcast Communications to air a series of marijuana-advocacy commercials, and continued updating his website, www.njweedman.com, which he was ordered to refrain from doing. Forchion considered these orders unconstitutional and refused to comply. Finally, on August 19, 2002, he was imprisoned in lieu of an ISP violation hearing scheduled for January 17, 2003.[9]

Upon being arrested by his I.S.P. officers Forchion went on a hunger strike for 11 days (August 29, 2002 - Sept 9th 2002)that received widespread media attention. News radio, TV shows accepted his collect calls from the Burlington County Jail and the case became a "cause celeb case". Clearly the public understood the significance of his free speech claims. He ended his hunger strike when Federal Judge Irenas accepted his "writ of Habeas Corpus".

Seeing that the parole violation imprisonment was a restriction of his Constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to free speech, Forchion attempted to obtain relief in Federal court. He filed both a habeas corpus petition and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 First Amendment civil rights violation petition. The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey then consolidated the actions; the Court then issued an order "to show cause" why a preliminary injunction should not be issued reinstating the Plaintiff to the ISP program and oral argument was held on January 21, 2003. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas's determined that Forchion was precluded from appealing the ISP Resentencing Panel and raising his constitutional challenges and thus the FELDMAN-ROOKER DOCTRINE didn't apply. The Federal injunction was granted, Forchion v. Intensive Supervision Parole, et.al., 240 F.Supp.2d 302 (2003), freeing Forchion from prison and ordering ISP officials to give him forty-eight (48) hours notice of further intentions to violate his parole.

2005 Federal marijuana conviction[edit]

Once released from the state of new jerseys custody (i.s.p. - Dec 2003)to celebrate his freedom Forchion held a "smokeout" at the Liberty Bell on Dec 6th, 2003. He announced that he will be holding monthly Rastafarian religious services at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, where he consumed marijuana at around 4:20PM the 3rd Saturday of each month. His stated purpose was he wanted to be arrested to challenge the Constitutionality of the marijuana laws in regards to religious freedom. At the Liberty Bell he wished to invoke the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. As a national monument under the Federal U.S. Park Service jurisdiction, this eventually resulted in a Federal case against Forchion that culminated in United States v. Forchion, when park rangers issued citations on multiple dates (December 20, 2003, March 20 and April 17, 2004) for possession of a controlled substance. He would use this case as an opportunity to argue that Constitutionally-protected freedom of religion allows Rastafarian's to consume marijuana as a sacrament the purpose of his disobedience.

The case ended up in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where a bench trial before a Magistrate Rapport found Forchion guilty. On July 22, 2005, an appeal before District Judge Stewart Dalzell affirmed the convictions but sent the case back to Judge Rapport for reconsideration of sentence. Judge Rapport instead dismissed case, Forchion appealed this dismissal. The higher appeal to the U.S. 3rd Circuit was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because appeal was not timely filed. Which Forchion disputed but eventually dropped his arguments feeling overwhelmed fighting Pro Se.

DNA sample litigation[edit]

Forchion simultaneously fought the state of New Jersey's newly enacted DNA law, for several months his case put on hold the state's new DNA law. Upon receiving notice via the mail to surrender his DNA per N. J . S. A . 53:1 ­20 . 17. Forchion wrote a responsive letter addressed to both New Jersey Governor McGreevy and New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. Telling each he refused to surrender his DNA but they could kiss his ass and swab their own lips to retrieve sample if so desired. For this he was immediately indicted and arrested for criminal contempt by state officials but Forchion filed a Federal "Habeas Corpus" complaint again. This time alleging this new state DNA law was a federal violation, an ex-post facto law. Federal Judge Irenas once again granted Forchion an injunction. The state of New Jersey Appeals Court heard Forchion's case in light of Federal ruling. Eventually Forchion won his State DNA case and was not obligated to surrender his DNA.[10] Federal complaint was then administratively dismissed.

Name change petition[edit]

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the State of New Jersey successfully fought his petition to legally change his name to that of his website: NJWeedman.com. Claiming his name would be an endorsement of criminal activity and led to other such name changes such as herionman, cocainemen etc., etc.,..[11]

Name change petition #2[edit]

In April 2010 Forchion once again attempted to change his name legally to NJWEEDMAN.COM, this time in the State of California, at the trial the court ruled his ".com" name would be confusing and denied it. Forchion appealed to the California Appeals Court which upheld the denial. .,..[12]

Move to California[edit]

Liberty Bell Temple Lounge on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

In 2006 Forchion moved to California but returned to New Jersey a few months later. In 2008 Forchion once again fled to California saying he was seeking "asylum", leaving the Garden State for the pot-friendly environs of Los Angeles. Forchion claimed he was living in political exile, having fled the official persecution of NJ State authorities for his political views on marijuana legalization."[13]

In 2009 he opened a Rastafarian Temple on Hollywood Blvd., named the Liberty Bell Temple II, after the series of protests he held at the Liberty bell in Philadelphia. At the Liberty Bell Temple he provided marijuana to hundreds of sick people every week, doing what he preached about in New Jersey. Being in Hollywood he quickly became a "hollywood personia", providing marijuana to patients and celebrities alike. NJweedman opened a party promotions company called NJWEEDMANPROMOTIONS. He stopped calling himself a "marijuana activist" and instead insisting he was now a "marijuana capitalist". He started hosting huge marijuana mansion parties in the Hollywood Hills where he openly provided marijuana to all the guests. The Television Show TMZ covered him three times in 2010.

In February 2011, Forchion made the cover of SPLIFF Magazine. The article, written by Alisia Bolivar (Vol. 3, Issue 1; page 42), discusses Forchion's most recent court case( April 1, 2010), jury nullification, a brief history of jury nullification, and Forchion's Rastafarian ministry in Los Angeles, California.

Public Enemy #420

In 2010 Forchion became an author, of his own biography titled Public Enemy #420 "NJweedman Super-heroes of the Potheads" ISBN/1450530311 first published on Jan 18th, 2010 ironically the same day New Jersey legalized Marijuana for medical purposes (New Jersey Medical Marijuana Compassionate Use Act C.24:6I-2) making Forchion feel vindicated for his decade of activism in New Jersey.

On April 1, 2010 disaster struck; on a visit home to visit family New Jersey Forchion was arrested with a pound of marijuana in the trunk of his rental car in Mt Holly, Burlington County. Starting another criminal case that consumed his life for almost 3 years ending in a "Not Guilty" verdict 10/18/2012. During the pre-trial proceedings Forchion admitted to bringing his pound of medical marijuana from his California - Liberty Bell Temple dispensary. While medical marijuana was legal in California and illegal under federal Laws the Federal policy at the time was to leave legal state operations alone. Burlington County New Jersey Prosecutor officials complained to Federal officials in the Justice Department Office, Los Angeles of Forchions transporting marijuana across state lines to New Jersey. On Dec 13th, 2011 the U.S. DEA Raided Forchions holdings (Liberty Bell Temple Hollywood, and his grow operations on Gage ave. in South Los Angeles), financially ruining him. Forchion called this continued persecution of himself for his political views on marijuana by New Jersey Officials.

Political ambitions[edit]

In 1998 as a way of supporting his planned Jury Nullification defense to the charges he was facing he announced the formation of the Legalize Marijuana Party and his intention to run for a seat on the Camden County Freeholders board and the first district Congressional seat. He now claims this was a successful tactic and has since continued to run for offices almost yearly as a protest to the cannabis laws. Forchion now has a history of running for various state and federal offices as an independent candidate. Forchion has never been successful in any of his attempts for public office, which he acknowledges isn't even his goal.

1998 US Congress, 1st district New Jersey[edit]

Forchion ran for Camden County Freeholder and U.S. Congress in the 1st congressional district while under indictment for 1997 arrest, he used his campaign to promote the Legalization of Marijuana with the clear intention of influences his potential jurors thru media coverage of his campaign.

2000 US Congress, 3rd district New Jersey[edit]

Forchion ran for Congress in the 3rd congressional district. He lost his home in Chesilhurst NJ which was in the 1st district as a result of his 1997 arrest. He moved to Browns Mills and ran again and once again he used his campaign to promote the Legalization of Marijuana with the clear intention of influencing his potential jurors thru the media. The trial was Sept 18-21, 2000 which ended in a Plea Deal, but official his conviction didn't become formal until Dec 1st, 2000 so despite the anger of the authorities he remained on the ballot on election day Nov 2, 2000.

2005 Governor of New Jersey race[edit]

Forchion ran for Governor of New Jersey in 2005 under the slogan of “Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)- Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians”. As with his prior campaigns, Forchion ran largely on cannabis legalization. In his official statement mailed with the sample ballots to registered New Jersey voters, Forchion accuses the "Christian Government and law enforcement officers who rely on this ungodly racist WAR ON DRUGS for their livelihoods" as interfering with his rights to freedom of religion and speech. In particular, he notes that his religion of Rastafari and his "belief that our herb/sacrament is good" is oppressed. His statement ended with the slogans "TAKE A TOKE, THEN VOTE" and "ENEMY OF THE STATE" written in capital letters.

The Governor election was held on November 8, 2005. Of the ten candidates appearing on the ballot for Governor, Forchion came in sixth place with 8,271 votes, according to unofficial election results provided by the State of New Jersey.[14] The election was won by Democrat Jon Corzine.

2006 United States Senate election, New Jersey[edit]

Forchion ran for US Senator from New Jersey in 2006. He was placed on the ballot with the same “Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)" slogan. Forchion came in fourth place with 11,593 votes, or approximately 0.5% of the vote according to the official vote tallies.[15] Forchion finished behind Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez, Republican candidate Thomas Kean, Jr., and Libertarian Len Flynn, but ahead of five other candidates.

2008 Congressional Campaign, New Jersey[edit]

Forchion announced that he would run for the 3rd Congressional seat in New Jersey being vacated by Jim Saxton. He will be running under the "Legalize Marijuana (G.R.I.P.)" Party, from California. He was the only independent running against Republican Chris Myers and Democrat John Adler.[16] The Burlington County Democratic Party challenged Forchion's petition and he was removed from the ballot due to insignificant number of valid signatures.

2011 State Assembly Campaign, New Jersey[edit]

Forchion announced from California he would run for the state assembly seat in New Jersey. He will be running under the "Legalize Marijuana Party, from California. Forchion received 1,476 votes but generated a lot of press because of his being admitted to the ballot because he resided in California, while New Jersey great Carl Lewis was kicked off the ballot for the same reason.

2012 US Congress, 3rd district New Jersey[edit]

Forchion once again ran for Congress in the 3rd congressional district while under indictment for 4/1/2010 arrest, and basically living in California.He came in 3rd amongst 7 candidates. Losing to incumbent (r)Jon Runyon.

Other elections[edit]

Forchion ran in 2005 for a Congressional seat from New Jersey, garnering 4,914 votes, approximately 1.6% of the vote. He lost to incumbent Jim Saxton, Republican.[17] In both 1998 and 2000, Forchion ran and lost against incumbent Congressman Rob Andrews, Democrat, receiving 1257 votes[18] and 1959[19] votes, respectively. In his 1998 campaign, Forchion had not yet taken the moniker of NJWeedman, and instead ran as an independent simply as "Rob."

Besides the above campaigns for Congress, Forchion also ran for New Jersey General Assembly. In 1999, Forchion received 947 votes and lost to incumbents Francis L. Bodine and Larry Chatzidakis, both Republicans.

Incarceration history[edit]

Forchion was incarcerated in Camden, New Jersey for various drug related charges. The dates of his incarceration were between December 1, 2000 and April 3, 2002. Forchion’s offenses included the following:[20]

  • 1 count/merged count of : 2C:5-2*2 Conspiracy
  • 1 count/merged count of : 2C:35-5*2 CDS/Manufacture, Distribute, Dispense
  • 1 count/merged count of : 2C:20-7*3 Receiving Stolen Property
  • 1 count/merged count of : 2C:20-3*3 Theft by Unlawful Taking/Disposition

According to his official statement[21] mailed with the sample ballots during his 2005 candidacy for New Jersey Governor, Forchion notes that “I’ve been jailed without the right to a fair trial (2000), imprisoned for simply saying LEGALIZE IT”. Forchion describes himself as a former political prisoner for his views.[22]

Forchion was jailed from August 19. 2002 - Jan 24, 2003 by the State of New Jersey for attempting to air political ads calling for the end of the war on drugs.[23] He was charged with advocating criminal activity; Forchion claimed it was a violation of his first amendment rights and filed a writ of habeas corpus. U.S. District court Judge Irena's held hearings and agreed that his imprisonment was a violation of his right to freedom of speech and ordered him freed saying; "Many elected public officials have called for a liberalization of the nation's drug laws. Simply put, Plaintiff's place in this debate will do nothing to harm a public that is already itself debating the current state of our nation's drug laws." Forchion was represented by New Jersey criminal defense attorney John Vincent Saykanic.[24]

Forchion was jailed from Jan 30, 2013 - March 14, 2013 (46days) for a probation violation that he disputes as simply payback for beating the state on Oct 18th, 2012 "sore loserism".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil. "JERSEY; Dear Graduates: Wake Up, and Thanks for Stopping By", The New York Times, May 16, 2004. Accessed December 11, 2007. "I know that your first choice for a speaker today was Edward Forchion Jr., the Brown Mills marijuana advocate whose request to have his name legally changed to NJWeedman.com was rejected by an appeals court the other day."
  2. ^ a b "Edward Forchion (online autobiography)". www.njweedman.com. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  3. ^ "Look Who's Talking: "Weedman" burning up the scene". The Trentonian. Retrieved 2011-09-05. 
  4. ^ "Public Enemy #420: 2010 Page 92". Create Space. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  5. ^ "Public Enemy #420: 2010 Page 93". Create Space. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  6. ^ "Public Enemy #420: 2010 Page 96". Create Space. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  7. ^ "Public Enemy #420: 2010 Page 186". Create Space. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  8. ^ "United States v. Forchion, No. 04-949, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14791, 2005 WL 2989604 (2005)". Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church Website. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  9. ^ a b "Forchion v. Intensive Supervised Parole, et. al., 240 F.Supp.2d 302 (2003)". Google Scholar. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ [2][dead link]
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ "Public Enemy #420: 2010 Page 317". Create Space. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  14. ^ [4][dead link]
  15. ^ [5][dead link]
  16. ^ [6][dead link]
  17. ^ [7][dead link]
  18. ^ [8][dead link]
  19. ^ [9][dead link]
  20. ^ "Forward to DOC Homepage". State.nj.us. Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  21. ^ [10][dead link]
  22. ^ "Censorship". Njweedman.com. Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  23. ^ Cite error: The named reference http:.2F.2Fwww.njweedman.com.censorship.html was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  24. ^ "Rutgers School of Law". Lawlibrary.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2012-01-30. 

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