New Jersey pot activist gets 10 years

Ed FarchianEd FarchianThe man who campaigned for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as “NJ Weedman” was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison for possessing 25 pounds of marijuana he planned to sell, officials said.
Edward Forchion unsuccessfully sought asylum with the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, in November, saying he should be allowed to smoke marijuana.

Authorities alleged Forchion was part of a drug ring that had the marijuana shipped to a business in the Bellmawr Industrial Park.

In October 1998, he was indicted on charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute.

He was on the ballot at the time as the “Legalize marijuana party” candidate looking to replace U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, a Democrat from Camden County in the 1st Congressional District.

Forchion pleaded guilty in state Superior Court to conspiracy and possession.

He had filed a motion seeking to retract that guilty plea, but was sentenced yesterday anyway, according to Greg Reinert, spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor’s office.

In March, Forchion appeared at the State House for an Assembly session wearing a black and white striped prisoner’s costume.

On the floor of the Assembly chambers, Forchion allegedly began smoking marijuana in what he called an act of civil disobedience. He was escorted out by state troopers and arrested.

Forchion ran again this year as a third-party opponent to Andrews and was also on the ballot in Burlington County for a seat on the freeholder board.

Forchion, who could have faced as much as 30 years behind bars, had hoped for a lesser sentence tied to rehabilitation.

Speaking on Thursday, Forchion told The Trentonian that he intended to appeal the sentence, in the hopes of getting an opportunity to argue before a jury that New Jersey’s anti-marijuana statutes are too severe and overlook the drug’s medicinal and religious purposes.

It was the unreasonable nature of the law that Forchion said he had hoped to use in his defense.

“I should have been the perfect candidate to challenge this law,” he told reporters the day before his sentencing yesterday, saying he had hoped to use a strategy of “jury nullification.”

In “jury nullification,” the first indictee of a new law argues in front of a jury that the law is bogus. Forchion has argued that there is sufficient legal precedence for the strategy — and that he has the right to use it.

Forchion argued that many attorneys, while privately admitting that he may have a case with “jury nullification,” were uncomfortable becoming publicly involved because of the potential legal ramifications.Ed Farchian

This article was printed in the Trentonian and is online at: