Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion got his day in court and argued against New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis legalization efforts in favor of legacy operators.
He claims legalization “deprives him of equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As it subjects him to selective prosecution.”
The lawsuit claims state legalization is illegal.
NJWeedman might have inspired many who pushed for the legalization referendum in 2020 but he voted against it. He does not like the distinction between street marijuana sold in the legacy market. Versus cannabis bought from a licensed dispensary.
Every state-legal cannabis market has this dichotomy.
Forchion argued voters were duped. He thinks they approved an industry that only grants legalization to White-owned corporations. But it still criminalizes legacy operators who are often People of Color. He argued they are not getting access to grow, sell, and distribute cannabis.
“The now legalized cannabis industry is run by predominantly Caucasian-owned corporations who are benefitting … on the backs of legacy market vendors,” he said. “The community paved the road for legalization and paid the price with incarceration and felonies. They are being locked out of the ‘new’ industry.”
Former Governor Chris Christie set up a medical cannabis program that did favor White-owned companies. The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has set up rules for the adult-use market that prioritizes giving licenses to the type of people NJWeedman is advocating for.
Delays due to politics and COVID have made New Jersey’s cannabis industry and community very frustrated and skeptical.
The interim regulations have yet to go into effect. No adult-use cannabis license holders have been announced. The application process began for adult-use cultivators and manufacturers on December 15th. Companies can apply for a dispensary license on March 15th.
The State is once again seeking dismissal of the case. Governor Phil Murphy (D), represented by the Attorney General of New Jersey, initially requested the dismissal last year.
“The State isn’t really arguing the content of my argument. They’re trying to get the case dismissed. We’ll see what the judge says,” NJWeedman said.
NJWeedman lamented Black cannabis companies own so few licenses after the successive rounds of licensing that ended last December.
“I wish I could have applied for that,” he said.
Those with marijuana convictions could not apply in previous license rounds. Their applications are getting priority going forward.
“We’ll see,” he says about social equity.
Incessant court battles have become an accepted feature of cannabis legalization.
Fighting for Legacy Operators in the Courts
The stakes of Forchion’s allegations are substantial. New Jersey made national headlines just recently for their limited awarding of medicinal licenses. Heady NJ was the only publication that found any owners. Heady NJ has now reported there is more than one New Jersey Black cannabis license holder.
NJWeedman has been one of the few open gray market operators who was hesitant about applying for a license in the developing regulated market and complying with regulations.
“I’m arguing for the inclusion of everyone,” he said. “I don’t like any of this licensing.”
“Considering the state’s longtime racial disparity in marijuana arrests which have taken an unfair toll on its minority communities. This current filing against the governor is sure to set a benchmark,” said NJWeedman’s attorney John Saykanic.
“The State does not want to argue the merits. “They’re afraid to challenge my legal arguments,” Forchion said. “I don’t know if the judge is going to go for it or not.”
“If the judge throws it out, I will appeal,” he said.
NJWeedman is eager to appeal if he loses the case. He has the funds to pay the lawyers necessary to continue it.
He wants a free market system where underground cannabis entrepreneurs can operate.