Monica Yant Kinney: Victory for 'N.J. Weedman' is short-lived

Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion talking with a reporter at Reading Terminal Market in January.
Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion talking with a reporter at Reading Terminal Market in January. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 25, 2012

Ed Forchion should have known victory would be fleeting.

Forchion - fans and foes call him the "N.J. Weedman" - has a habit of embarrassing the government. He persuaded a federal judge to overturn a parole-violation sentence on the grounds that officials locked him up to silence his pot proselytizing. He successfully fought a law requiring ex-cons to deposit DNA in a state database.

A perennial political candidate, Forchion has run for multiple offices at once. He's mooned Gov. Jim McGreevey and mailed a joint to Gov. Christie.

Forchion has lost jobs, money, and wives over his unrelenting activism, but he never tires of blowing smoke. In return, the government has made him a constant target.

So after he won a surprise not-guilty verdict last week in a New Jersey criminal case involving a pound of primo pot, it didn't take officials long to harsh his mellow.

" Two hours," Forchion gripes. "Two hours after I won, I got a call from the DEA in L.A. They had a 'Google Alert' on me. Sore losers."

The criminal case in Burlington County stemmed from Forchion driving around arrogantly on April Fools' Day, 2010. Police said he had so much pot in the rental car, he had to be selling. The Weedman - who has a California-issued medical card enabling him to use cannabis for asthma and tumor pain - insisted he planned to smoke (or eat) all of it himself.

"They had zero evidence that I was distributing, other than the fact that I had a pound," he explains. "Well, I do smoke a lot. And I was visiting for a while."

In 2009, perhaps tiring of his own antics, Forchion flew west to reinvent himself as a medical-marijuana maestro. He filed the paperwork to "go legit," obtained permits and opened a taxpaying dispensary on Hollywood Boulevard.

In a nod to his home turf, he called his shop "The Liberty Bell Temple." Ed being Ed, he wound up hosting parties with athletes and rappers. He knew he'd made it when he landed on TMZ and earned enough to pay child support and take his kids to Jamaica.

Last December, federal agents (who don't endorse the state-ordained drug dealing) raided Forchion's home and "Temple."

"It's the price of doing business," he laments, "that they're going to come, take all your money and weed, and then not prosecute you."

Round two with the feds?

No federal charges were ever filed against Forchion, but the DEA still has his belongings. The phone call last Thursday was an invitation of sorts for him to stop by and pick up (some of) his stuff.

A day later, as Forchion remained in New Jersey, another DEA agent visited his new dispensary - the "United States Collective" conveniently located near the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

"I'll advise you to close by the end of business today," the agent reportedly said, "or we're going to launch another investigation and you'll be involved."

The worried staff stayed home. Forchion flew to L.A. on Tuesday and says he'll man the store himself.

I called the DEA Press Office in L.A. seeking comment, but Special Agent Sarah Pullen couldn't say anything about what she dubbed an "ongoing investigation."

"If Mr. Forchion wants to provide information, that is his choice."

Choice is one of Forchion's favorite words.

He chose to seek out an investor to open a second dispensary knowing the feds would come knocking and he could again lose everything.

He chose to put New Jersey's criminal statute up against the state's medical-marijuana law, to force jurors to question why a drug he can use legally in California to ease agony should cause him even more pain in the Garden State.

"You know," Forchion reminds, "I could still get 18 months in prison for being convicted of possession.

"I never denied that weed was mine. I admitted it."


Contact Monica Yant Kinney

at 215-854-4670, myant@phillynews.com or @myantkinney on Twitter. Read her blog at philly.com/blinq.

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