Here in New Jersey, the black market is booming as people are stocking up on cannabis as they anticipate being stuck home due to Coronavirus. Underground dealers are fulfilling an overlooked yet vital need.
Weed Adopts to COVID
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has deemed adult-use and medical dispensaries essential and exempt from an Executive Order shutting down all non-essential businesses due to Coronavirus.
Black market dealers understand their customers are using cannabis to cope with anxiety, along with other health issues. Among the dealers, Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion will continue selling weed, despite the law and the virus.
Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses. But he deemed the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries essential. Thus they can stay open.
Black market cannabis is often used as medicine by those who cannot afford the high medical dispensary prices. With the advent of Coronavirus, there is an especially high demand that Forchion and others are seeking to meet.
Forchion is aware of the danger Coronavirus represents. In contrast to the usual leisurely atmosphere of his establishment, he said it is now operating in a takeout style.
“Grab and go only,” Forchion said. In addition, he has taken to wearing a mask covering his mouth while serving customers.
Forchion said that during this time of marijuana prohibition, the people who sell weed should be considered heroes. He noted the fact that there have been several issues where their actions were noteworthy. For example, the dispensaries seem unable to keep up with the demand for this essential medicine while dealers are continuing to do so.
“I’m selling weed like crazy!” Forchion exclaimed.
The federal government has distorted facts and ignored the health benefits of weed for decades. During that time, dealers sought to get people the weed they needed to make life more bearable.
Black Market Booming
There are an estimated 650,000 to 850,000 daily weed smokers in New Jersey that the black market supplies. The heroes are the individuals who are providing weed despite the law, rather than the police who seek to prosecute people for enjoying a naturally grown plant.
However, the state government refuses to see dealers in a positive light even as they consider legalization. S. 2073, the adult-use legalization bill that failed last year sought to exclude dealers with felony records such as Forchion from owning a dispensary.
When pushing for reform last year, one of the goals Governor Murphy said was that he sought to “take the business out of the hand of the bad guys.”
“We are the good guys! We are the heroes!” Forchion exclaimed. He said that despite the threat of arrest and prison terms, dealers such as himself developed a great market.
Forchion believes he’s a modern-day Robin Hood, the Robin Hood of reefer. No jury would convict him if a prosecutor decided to indict him.
“The state needs a jury of 12 people to convict. I only need one to hang a jury. Thus, I use my hashtag #Njcantget12 as I sell weed openly,” Forchion said.
Cannabis Market Issues
In California, the process to set up a marijuana-based license and secure a license is far simpler and much less expensive than it is here in New Jersey where the few licenses given out thus far have gone to majority white-owned companies.
Fochion often calls the corporations seeking to profit from legalized “Canna-baggers” after carpet baggers who were Northerners accused by Southerners of coming to the South after the Civil War to take advantage of their loss. He is especially critical of State Senator Nick Scutari (D-Union) the sponsor of the legalization bill in the State Senate. Scutari was a municipal prosecutor for years and did not show leniency to those charged with possession.
Scutari himself is under investigation over his time as the municipal prosecutor of Linden.
Defending One’s Business
“It’s offensive to me that the black market which developed over the last 50 years of pot prohibition is now being sold off for bribes from the canna-bagger corporations. Those who developed this market and caught charges had our asses taken and went to prison are being excluded from this new legal market,” Forchion said.
And because black market dealers are excluded, they will remain outside the legal system and cut into the sales of the legal industry, which is exactly what the legal industry fears. Thus, they perpetuate the black market and their fears.
Unless they get another guy to own it on paper like in the film Casino.
“We (the black market dealers) developed this cannabis-consuming market that the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association is plotting to take over,” Forchion said.
The War on Drugs was perpetuated to ruin the lives of many. It did so successfully for more than 40 years. Many individuals with felony records have been unable to find decent employment. Forchion believes there should be “reefer reparations” for those unjustly prosecuted to address this.