A federal judge heard Governor Pil Murphy’s motion to dismiss Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion’s lawsuit that challenges the legality of New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis market last week.
NJWeedman is arguing in Forchion v. Murphy New Jersey legalization is federally unconstitutional because it uses selective enforcement and does not guarantee equal protection under the law.
“I think I should be able to buy from anybody and sell to anybody just like the cannabaggers,” NJWeedman said, voicing his opposition to the regulations of the cannabis market.
He is unhappy at the dichotomy in adult-use cannabis states across the United States where dispensary cannabis is legal, but street cannabis (marijuana) dealers remain liable to felony charges for trafficking. The same will occur in New Jersey.
This is especially noteworthy because many dealers in the underground market are People of Color.
“I’m challenging the law in my lawsuit,” Forchion said.
Judge Peter G. Sheridan of the United States District Court of New Jersey heard arguments in Trenton. The Attorney General’s deputies representing the State sought to argue NJWeedman had no standing and that the case should be dismissed. Sheridan did not dismiss the case when he could have done so easily.
NJWeedman noted Sheridan used oral arguments to get more information not included in the paperwork for Governor Phil Murphy’s motion to dismiss.
“His questions were directed mostly towards us and dismissive of the State,” Fochion recalled. “The Attorney General’s office basically said I was irrelevant.”
Forchion said the judge asked many questions about the nature of his arrest by an officer in Wanaque, NJ last month and his business.
“Ironically, my arrest last month actually gave me standing,” NJWeedman explained.
If the judge decides not to dismiss the case, there will be another day for arguments on the merits of the challenge in the future.
“If he does dismiss it, I’m going to appeal to the U.S. federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals,” NJWeedman said regarding the case. “If the ruling went against the state, I imagine the state will appeal it too.”
“This is not a frivolous case. The judge is not even taking it frivolously,” he said. “It’s a bigger issue than just me.”
He is hopeful regarding the outcome.
State Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the decriminalization sponsor, has noted the dichotomy whereby street dealers could still be sentenced to prison while legal dispensaries sell the same plant.
The NJWeedman Case in Wanaque
On February 6, NJWeedman was arrested and charged with possession with conspiracy to distribute in the small town of Wanaque in Passaic County.
“Which is exactly what I said that black guys like me will still be charged with possession and intent to distribute while white guys get to sell tons of weed,” he noted.
“I’m no Weedsterdamus but this law is de facto discriminatory and the racial results will be our reality,” Forchion added.
“In my case, I had a couple grams, and these guys have tons. The State protects them from federal while they prosecute me under state law,” NJWeedman said regarding the MSOs. “It will continue to happen to black men who have marijuana on them. They will get charged with possession.”
Despite decriminalization being signed into law on February 22 with legalization, NJWeedman’s case in Wanaque has yet to be dismissed. He was subject to both municipal and county charges.
He initially had a court date, but it was postponed due to the Attorney General’s memo to stop prosecuting cannabis possession cases.
“I’m sure they will. And if they don’t, it’ll be like some type of retaliation so selective prosecution type shit, and I will fucking litigate that too,” NJ Weedman said.
NJWeedman lamented that the legal fees he has to pay to get back the $9,000 in cash confiscated by the police eat up almost all that money.
“I did pay 7,500 already in legal fees, so yes, I’m gonna sue the town for that,” he explained.
“If they were smart, they would have dismissed it before we had the oral arguments,” Forchion said. “Sometimes, the different heads of the snakes don’t talk to each other.”
MSOS and the Cannabis Industry
NJWeedman said there might be a few token minority-owned companies that receive licenses from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) and a few People of Color on the boards of majority-owned white companies. However, the vast majority of the industry will be white-owned, in his opinion.
“Who’s gonna argue except for people like me that are being excluded? Everybody else wants to be in line,” Forchion said.
“I … have more experience than all of them guys put together, but they would never put me on the board,” he said.
NJWeedman argued that if New Jersey had legalized cannabis first, local companies would have to become Multiple State Operators (MSOs) and dominate the rest of the industry, which would benefit the State economically.
“But instead, California Oregon Washington state, they made it legal first. Their guys made millions, and now they’re going all around the country, gobbling up everything. They are the canna baggers from out of state,” he explained.
“We got hindered by our politicians,” Forchion noted.