Marijuana activist Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion has been placed under arrest, for violating his parole by producing a series of commercials opposing the drug war.
In November 1997, Forchion was arrested in a sting operation while he and his brother were allegedly trying to pick up up a FedEx package containing 40 pounds of pot. Forchion, his brother and a friend were the first people tried under New Jersey’s Omnibus Crime Act, which provides a 20 year sentence for anyone convicted of trafficking over 20 pounds of pot, even on their first offense.
While awaiting trial, Forchion began campaigning for marijuana law reform, and the right for “jury nullification,” which is illegal in New Jersey. He also ran for Congress and County Freeholder as the sole member of the Legalize Marijuana Party. Forchion even lit up joints in a dozen public places, including the New Jersey State Assembly and the Liberty Bell.
After two years and three judges, Forchion accepted a plea bargain of six months in jail and 27 months in New Jersey’s Intensive Supervised Parole (ISP) program.?Yet after the agreement was made, Forchion was informed he was ineligible for the ISP program, and served 15 months in prison before being released into ISP on April 3, 2002.
Although his parole officer ordered him not to talk about his case to the press, Forchion believed this was an illegal order. On May 27, he stood outside the Burlington County Courthouse and passed out leaflets explaining his persecution due to his Rastafarian religious beliefs, and giving interviews to two newspapers. The next day he was placed under house arrest, and on June 6 he was sentenced to four days in jail for speaking to the media.
To protest, upon his release Forchion produced three “first amendment commercials” with a fellow activist. He signed a contract and paid a deposit to Comcast NJ for the commercials to be broadcast. However, Comcast NJ quickly reversed their decision, returning Forchion’s deposit and refusing to broadcast his free-speech ads.
On August 19, Forchion was arrested after his weekly parole meeting. He was taken into custody for violating his parole by producing the commercials which question the war on drugs. As of early September, Forchion remains in jail.