| Burlington County Times
If you think recreational weed is legal in New Jersey, check with the state’s leading marijuana activist, now facing charges in North Jersey for holding a small amount of pot on him.
Ed Forchion, aka NJWeedman, was stopped Feb. 5, in Wanaque, a borough about two hours north of Trenton. He was on his way to a party in Greenwood Lake, New York, where he was a celebrity guest.
“They were having a big pot party,” Ed said, as we sat in his restaurant and weed shop across from Trenton City Hall.
On that night, he was driving his Weedmobile, a 2007 Chevy Suburban once owned by the New Jersey State Police. It’s outfitted with decals that make it look like a state trooper car, but with “POT TROOPER” and “Serving and Providing for POTHEADS Since 1993.”
It’s also outfitted with an array of cannabis green lights that flash like a police car, and underglow lights. When switched on they make an impressive show.
“I have a button that turns on all those green lights,” Ed said, “but I know those are illegal, so I didn’t have them on.”
But there was one green light that still glowed — his tail plate.
“I can’t turn that one off,” he said.
That’s illegal in New Jersey, since a green tail plate light is considered improper for clear illumination.
He was cruising through Wanaque, not speeding, and he passed a cop car sitting off to the side.
“Soon as I went by, he pulled out,” he said.
He followed for about a mile, then pulled him over.
“Ironically, right in front of the police station,” Ed said.
He took video of what happened next, posting it to his Facebook page. He’s standing on a dark street, police strobes illuminating his face. He told his fans: “Well, the (state) constitutional amendment was enacted on January 1st. And it said that marijuana is now legal. Possession, cultivation, distribution. But, nope….” and he flipped the camera around to show a police officer searching the Weedmobile.
The cop who stopped him said he smelled weed.
“He asked me do I have a New Jersey medical marijuana card, and if I don’t, he’s searching the car. I told him I don’t.”
Ed told the officer that the state attorney general has a moratorium on minor weed possession, so why make an arrest?
“We went back and forth about arrests. I said arrests are really discretionary. I said if you want to do it, go ahead, but chances are it’ll be dismissed. He said do you have marijuana on you? I said, yeah, it’s legal now.”
The cop also found $9,000 cash, which Ed said is money from his restaurant and weed shop. He’s all-cash because banks won’t do business with him, he said.
“Do you know how many banks have kicked me out?”
He named five.
“They google me and find out I’m the Weedman, and they don’t want to have anything to do with me,” he said.
The cash was to pay $4,200 for store rent, due last week, and the rest for bills, he said.
“I use my car as my office,” he said.
Eventually three Wanaque officers were on the scene, two younger, perhaps under 30, and one older, who Ed estimated is about his age, which is 56.
“The two young guys were cool about the whole thing,” he said.
But the older officer wasn’t.
“He was one of those ‘gateway’ theory guys. He let it be known to me that he wasn’t down with legalization. He let it be known that this moratorium on prosecutions didn’t stop him from enforcing the law. He let it be known that every heroin addict he ever talked to started with marijuana. I told him it’s legal because it’s the law.
“The cop said Gov. Murphy hasn’t signed the law. I said, look, the constitutional amendment for weed went into effect on Jan. 1st. Read it. It says possession is legal. And he said, but the governor has to sign it. No, I said, what the governor has to sign is called enabling legislation for all these other rules and regulations, but possession is legal, and there’s a moratorium on prosecutions.
“I asked, ‘Why don’t you think they bust me across from City Hall?’ Prior to the amendment, I kind of expected to get busted. Now, I don’t expect it. Arrest and conviction are two different things. Now, there is a vagueness issue with the law, so much that if a prosecutor were to arrest me right now, he knows he’s gonna lose. He knows the case is going to get thrown out.”
Ed’s argument didn’t cut it with the cops. They arrested him, took him to the police station, where he sat until 6 a.m., cuffed to a chair, he said.
The vote last November to legalize recreational marijuana passed with two-thirds of voters in favor. It seemed that’s what New Jersey wanted. So what does it actually have?
It regulates “cannabis” purchased from a state-approved dispensary or licensed dealer. Gov. Murphy hasn’t signed the package of laws that would clear things up, citing worries about underage toking.
“It was bamboozlement,” Ed said.
More: Mullane: Why New Jersey’s top weed advocate voted against legalizing it
More: Gianficaro: For marijuana advocate Ken Wolski, legalization of drug was long overdue
He has sued Murphy, alleging the referendum on weed was a bait and switch, tricking voters into believing they were legalizing recreational marijuana, when it was really is about ensuring corporate Big Weed controls the market, shutting out the little guy.
“It’s a Caucasian cannabis cartel — a monopoly that we have to buy weed from them, or it’s illegal,” he said.
He believes he’ll beat the charges, but it’s a hassle. He has a business to run.
“If I had stuck to the main highways, instead of taking the short cut through that town, I would’ve made it,” he said.
Columnist JD Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at [email protected]