Who is Weedman?
Robert Forchion (a.k.a. Weedman) grew up in New Jersey, but he is also a resident of California, where he first became registered as a medical marijuana patient. After medical marijuana was legalized in California, Forchion actually established a third party in New Jersey in 1998 to protest cannabis prohibition. His later diagnosis of cancerous tumors in both his knees in 2001 served further motivation for his efforts to bring the copious benefits of cannabis usage to the public consciousness. Soon after becoming a medical marijuana patient, Forchion tried numerous times in both New Jersey and in California to have his legal name be changed to his web domain name, NJWeedman.com to no avail.
Weedman and the Legalize Marijuana Party
As a means to push cannabis legalization efforts forward, Forchion established the Legalize Marijuana Party in New Jersey in 1998. The party aimed to elect pro-marijuana legalization candidates to various public offices — namely Forchion himself. In 1998, Forchion ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives under the party. In 1999, he ran for Camden County Freeholder. Then for New Jersey Governor in 2005 and for U.S. Senator the next year. Nearly a decade later, he would run for election again, this time for the U.S. House of Representatives for New Jersey’s 12th congressional district in 2016. Despite his numerous efforts, Forchion was never able to gain more than 3% of the vote.
NJWeedman Arrests and Legal Battles
Another aspect of Forchion’s history of advocacy for cannabis legalization includes a lengthy record of arrests and trials for a variety of charges related to cannabis. He was tried for a number of his activities and famously represented himself, mounting a variety of legal challenges to marijuana laws. In 1997, Forchion was arrested on the charge of “intent to distribute” and accepted a plea deal for 10 years in a state prison in 2000. He was arrested in New Jersey in 2010 after a traffic stop and was charged and convicted of intent to distribute and possession. Shortly after, he was sentenced to probation for two years, as well as given a $2,500 fine. In 2012, federal agents busted his weed farm in California, confiscating all his plants, but the case was soon dismissed.
In 2013, he was arrested in New Jersey for, once again, possession of marijuana and was subsequently charged in New Jersey three years later for charges relating to marijuana and outstanding warrants. Then, in 2017, Weedman was charged with witness tampering. It was this instance that would stand to be Forchion’s most contentious conviction. This 2017 charge for second and third degree witness tampering led to Forcion’s arrest and holding without bail, and his appeal for release was denied. These charges stemmed from Forchion’s online attacks against an informant who tipped off the New Jersey police that he was illicitly distributing marijuana in his weed temple (see below). During his months in prison, he went on a hunger-strike and continued to appeal for his release.
Finally, after over a year in prison, Forchion was found not guilty on these most recent charges for witness tampering and was, at last, released from prison. At this time, he had a number of other drug-dealing charges stemming from a raid of his weed restaurant in 2016, and he would see these charges dropped in 2016. The prosecutors cited the evolving political landscape and shift in public opinion on cannabis law as their reasoning for dropping the charges.
Liberty Bell Temple and The Joint
Two years prior to his 2017 arrest, Weedman opened and directed the Liberty Bell Temple in New Jersey, which was his “cannabis church” under which he proclaimed he and his congregants were granted legal religious protections to gather together and smoke medical marijuana. One of the “Ten Weed Cannandments” reads “He Who Rolls It Must Spark It” and is displayed prominently over one of the church’s doorways. During its two years of operation, Weedman received more than 20 tickets from law enforcement trying to close down the place of worship, even deploying stakeouts and SWAT raids.
In spite of the conflict between police and Liberty Bell, Forcion also launched and operated a wildly popular and contentious weed restaurant that was conveniently adjacent to the weed temple. The unapologetic joint served everything from Bob Marley coffee and vegan smoothies to red velvet cupcakes and sandwiches. In one of the initial restaurant launch videos, Forcion proclaimed that “all of our staff has failed their drug tests.” Both the Liberty Bell Temple and The Joint were forced to close following Weedman’s 2017 arrest and have yet to re-open.
Edward Forchion—a.k.a. The NJ Weedman—has been on a turbulent quest for cannabis policy advancement. Whether it be from launching a marijuana legalization third party, representing himself in court, or piloting an honest-to-goodness weed temple, Forcian has definitely earned the nickname. Largely due to the swift evolution of public attitudes towards weed, NJ Weedman’s most recent charges for second and third degree witness tampering have been dropped. This pattern of states dropping charges has emerged and is only trending upwards as many states implement programs to expunge the records of those previously convicted of marijuana related charges.
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