NJ Weedman Sues Governor Murphy Alleging Marijuana Referendum Was Bait and Switch Maneuver, Demands Black Market Acceptance
Longtime marijuana legalization activist Ed Forchion (known as the “NJ Weedman”) has filed a forty-four-page federal lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy alleging New Jersey’s voter referendum to legalize weed was a bait-and-switch tactic. In his lawsuit, Weedman alleges that voters were tricked into approving a corporate takeover of New Jersey’s longtime booming underground marijuana market. The case may hinge on whether there is a legal difference between the words “marijuana” and “cannabis.”
Weedman believes that New Jersey’s weed legalization program is a sham designed to enrich a select few of mostly white businessmen and exclude the thousands of people of color in New Jersey’s black market who, like him, have sold weed for decades in the State.
But unlike other black-market weed dealers in New Jersey, Weedman does not hide what he does from the public or law enforcement.
For more than two years, Weedman has been engaging in a unique form of civil disobedience by helping countless people obtain weed.
At NJ Weedman’s Joint and Liberty Bell Temple, which are located directly across the street from City Hall in Trenton, Weedman openly sells weed three days a week to a steady stream of members and guests of his social club.
Weedman has been able to openly sell weed (and sometimes magic mushrooms) because he has successfully used a legal technique called “Jury Nullification” to convince jurors that laws prohibiting the possession and sale of weed are nonsense and should be disregarded.
Jury nullification has been used in the past by activists accused of violating similar unjust laws and legal requirements, such as the Fugitive Slave Act and the draft for the Vietnam War.
This technique has worked for Weedman several times before in recent years, and he believes that those in power in New Jersey are afraid to arrest him because he will be able to convince at least one member of any jury that he and his customers should be allowed to buy, sell, smoke, and eat marijuana. The vote tally from New Jersey marijuana legalization referendum suggests that at least 67% of jurors in New Jersey would agree with him.
Bait and Switch
In his lawsuit, Weedman asserts that New Jersey’s referendum to legalize marijuana was a bait and switch maneuver.
He persuasively argues that the wording of New Jersey’s marijuana legalization referendum was “unconstitutionally vague to the point of being deceptive” because, rather than voting to legalize marijuana, the interpretative statement of the ballot question stated that the referendum was only to amend the NJ Constitution to legalize “a controlled form of marijuana called cannabis.” Yet the title of the referendum was “Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana.” Weedman’s weed, therefore, was not made legal.
In enacting the will of the people to legalize weed, New Jersey’s legislators are in the process of passing a bill that will define “cannabis” only as marijuana bought and sold from business people who have obtained licenses from the State to do so. In essence, New Jersey voters did not really vote to approve the legalization of marijuana, just the cannabis that the corporate-types guys plan to peddle and get rich off of.
As stated in Weedman’s lawsuit:
“While the public believed that they were voting for the legalization of marijuana, the State pulled the proverbial ‘bait-and-switch’ and actually had voters vote to legalize ‘regulated cannabis’ (a newly created term) as opposed to legalizing marijuana (as the public commonly understood). This vague and deceptive ballot question successfully bamboozled the public into creating a monopoly of Caucasian cannabis corporations which the public, due to fear of arrest, would have to patronize.”
Selective Enforcement of Federal Pot Prohibition Laws
In his lawsuit, Weedman also asserts that the State of New Jersey selectively enforces federal laws prohibiting pot. Right now, it is illegal under federal law for anyone in the United States to buy or sell weed, but some people go to jail for weed and some don’t.
Weedman believes that this selective enforcement of federal pot prohibition violates his Constitutional right of equal protection under the law. Simply put, a poor person in Trenton could get locked up for selling weed, but a wealthy businessman in Montclair can become a millionaire doing the same exact thing. If the federal law was enforced equally, that would not be the case.
Specifically, Weedman alleges that:
“The Regulated Cannabis Act will permit the State of New Jersey to openly utilize selective prosecution and systemic racism to create a federally illegal Caucasian Cannabis Cartel which the State of New Jersey will illegally attempt to protect from federal prosecution.”
The lawsuit also states that:
Mr. Forchion fears continued selective prosecution and retaliation by state officials as the State of New Jersey has waged a more than two-decades old legal campaign against Mr. Forchion solely due to his persistent calls for the legalization of marijuana.
Weedman has valid grounds to believe that he will be retaliated against for his acts of civil disobedience. In 2017, after Weedman successfully convinced jurors on multiple trials to nullify the pot charges that the State had filed against him, prosecutors launched a new attack. They accused Weedman of witness tampering and were able to keep him in prison for 447 days before dropping all charges right before the case was scheduled to go to trial.
Weedman was disappointed with the prosecutors. He wanted to go to trial and tell his side of the story. He is certain that the witness tampering charge was a “phony scheme” to keep him in jail, because witness tampering is one of the few charges that are exempt from New Jersey’s then recently enacted bail reform legislation. Prosecutors also dropped pending pot prohibition violations, citing “the public acceptance of weed.” (One wonders if they would extend the same curtesy to the kid on the street who gets arrested for selling dime bags. Selective enforcement, anyone?)
Those Who Were Once Unjustly Locked Up for Selling Weed, Are Now Locked Out of the Profits
As did President Andrew Jackson, Weedman firmly believes “to the victor, must go the spoils” — meaning, he and the thousands of other weed dealers in New Jersey’s black market must be included in New Jersey’s marijuana legalization program.
We all now know what visionaries like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Terrence McKenna have been telling us for a long time — marijuana is is a helpful plant that many, many people like to smoke.
So now that the times have a changed, who will profit off of marijuana? According to Weedman, the marijuana money should go to the underground weed dealers in New Jersey who have been helping people for decades. It should not go to the cannabaggers, as Weedman calls them, who are seeking to become billionaires by creating “Wal-Marts of Weed.”
In his lawsuit, Weedman argues that New Jersey’s underground, black market must share in the financial windfall that will happen as the mainstream American public increasingly accepts smoking weed and eating magic mushrooms as acceptable hobbies and forms of alternative medicine.
In a statement to the press, Weedman said:
“This new Caucasian dominated cannabis industry is a sham. Politicians are in cahoots with corporations to take over and control what is now a multi-billion dollar industry while excluding the existing marijuana market. We are witnessing systematic discrimination at its finest. Only ‘regulated cannabis,’ which is defined as the pot sold by dealers licensed by a new bureaucracy called the Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be allowed in the marketplace. But individuals possessing and selling marijuana — such as myself — will still be in violation of the law. The community that paved the road for legalization and paid the price with incarceration and felonies, are being locked out of the ‘new’ industry and will continue to be locked up.”
Now that there is widespread public support in favor of letting people smoke weed, the weed-pioneer dealers who suffered the consequences of unjust pot prohibition laws are unable to participate in New Jersey’s soon-to-be-enacted marijuana legalization program. That seems wrong.
Civil Disobedience on YouTube — Get On the Cannabus
Weedman cleverly and creatively uses social media and YouTube as vehicles for his civil disobedience.
For example, on his YouTube channel Weedman hosts a show called “Get On The Cannabus” where guests often discuss how marijuana and mushrooms have helped them cure various physical and mental ailments. While smoking joints and streaming live on social media, Weedman and his guests talk about the sad, twisted joke that is pot prohibition in America in the year 2020.
Moreover, in what is perhaps the only time a raffle has been used as a form of civil disobedience, Weedman conducts a weekly weed raffle on YouTube where he gives away an ounce of weed (First Prize) and edibles (Second and Third Prize) to three lucky winners who have purchased food from his restaurant in the past week.
Weedman admits that he expects to one day get arrested, again. He welcomes the possibility of incarceration and indictment as an opportunity to bring public scrutiny upon the manifest injustice of having marijuana corporatization transpiring at the same time as others who are less fortunate than the M.B.A. holders get put in human cages for selling the same flower.
In the meantime, Weedman’s partner, Debi Madaio has created a change.org petition requesting that Governor Murphy grant Weedman a license to sell weed.
Note: The author is a cardholding member of NJ Weedman’s Joint and Liberty Bell Temple.