After a long and well-publicized journey through the court system, Ed, the “NJWeedman” Forchion has been found not guilty on drug distribution charges. Originally from Jersey, living in California, and arrested on a trip home with a pound of pot, the NJWeedman made a name for himself by shaking the court system and challenging how things are normally done in the criminal justice system.
He was found guilty of 4th degree possession in May but a mistrial was declared on his distribution charge back then. Now, he faces sentencing on the possession charge, but no further action on the accusation that he intended to sell his pot.
Forchion represented himself in all of his criminal proceedings within the Burlington County Superior Court, and he was often criticized and reprimanded by the judge for his “antics” in the process. He, in essence, wanted the jury to think how he thought about marijuana, and though he admitted the pound of pot was his, he argued he shouldn’t be penalized for possessing his “medicine.”
Forchion suffers from painful tumors in his legs and is a card carrying medical marijuana user in the state of California. He is also a Rastaman, part of the cultural and spiritual movement that considers marijuana a sacrament. His case marks the first of its kind where a jury was allowed to use the fact that a defendant was a registered marijuana patient in the New Jersey courts. Officially, New Jersey does not recognize medical marijuana registrations from outside states.
Throughout the trial, Forchion also tried to tell the jury about jury nullification, encouraging them that if they didn’t think the charges against him were moral or simply didn’t agree with them, they could acquit. The judge barred Forchion from having this discussion, though it may have been too late.
Jury nullification is a fascinating concept, growing in popularity in marijuana cases where juries simply aren’t interested in prosecuting pot smokers. It happened recently in New Hampshire. And a recent 60 Minutes story on marijuana use in Colorado noted that juries there are also against prosecutors charging these types of cases.
Whether the jury considered their verdict an act of jury nullification, it isn’t completely clear, but what is clear is that victory prevailed in this case of a man who drives around in a van decorated with airbrushed marijuana leaves and admitted to eating marijuana cookies throughout the trial.
His case is significant because he was allowed to talk about his status as a medical marijuana user. It’s even more significant because he was ultimately acquitted on the charge that he intended to sell marijuana. The prosecution argued the sheer amount of pot found in his van was evidence of his intentions to sell it. Forchion said the amount simply meant he smoked, and ate, a lot of marijuana.
When you are charged with a marijuana offense, whether in New Jersey or California, the courts will play hardball. They want to ensure no one is getting around the medical marijuana laws that are in place. But, when the evidence is in your favor and with a sympathetic and intelligent jury, you could be vindicated.
If you are charged with a marijuana crime, contact us today to discuss your legal options.