LATEST ON NJWEEDMAN SEEKING TO DROP DRUG CHARGES
NJWeedman seeks to have drug charges dropped
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 5:00 am | Updated: 7:36 am, Tue Jul 26, 2011.
MOUNT HOLLY — A Superior Court judge is weighing whether criminal drug charges against longtime activist NJWeedman should be dismissed in light of the state’s medical marijuana law.
Ed Forchion, who claims dual residency in Pemberton Township and California and is running as an independent for the state Assembly in the 8th District, argued his case before Judge Charles Delehey on July 19.
Delehey took the arguments under consideration and has yet to release a decision.
The arguments in Forchion’s drug distribution case came on the same day Gov. Chris Christie announced he would allow New Jersey to move forward in implementing its medical marijuana law despite his concerns over whether federal authorities could prosecute state regulators.
Forchion, who is representing himself with the help of the Public Defender’s Office, argues that New Jersey’s criminal statute is unconstitutional because it still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, like cocaine or heroin, with no medicinal value.
He claims the criminal possession and distribution laws are now contradictory because the state’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act does recognize the drug’s medicinal benefits. He also argues that, as an approved medical marijuana user in California, he should not have been charged because he uses the drug for “medical necessity.”
“The law is wrong and seriously flawed,” Forchion said. “The state cannot pick and choose who gets charged criminally and who gets treated medicinally.”
Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano argued that the indictment should stand and that none of Forchion’s arguments warrant a dismissal of the criminal charges.
“It’s a proper indictment and a straightforward charge,” Luciano said.
Forchion, the operator of a medical marijuana dispensary in California, was charged April 1, 2010, with possession with the intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia after police allegedly found about a pound of marijuana in the trunk of his rental car during a motor vehicle stop on Route 38 in Mount Holly for rolling through a red light.
The Rastafarian admitted that he had the pot, but said it was for his own spiritual and medicinal purposes. He plans to take his case to trial.
Luciano argued that Forchion was stopped before the medical marijuana law went into effect, that the defendant would not qualify as a medical marijuana patient under the New Jersey law, and that the argument of “medical necessity” has already been decided by the courts and is not a defense to “a self-help user of marijuana.”
He also said that federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug and that those working in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs could be prosecuted under federal law.
It is the same issue raised by Christie last month, which the prosecutor noted in his brief. The governor sought assurance from the U.S. Justice Department that it will not pursue criminal charges against these dispensaries.
While Christie never received blanket assurance from the Justice Department, he said it’s a “risk I’m willing to take as governor” to move the implementation of the program forward.
Christie also cited comments President Barack Obama made in 2008, when he was a presidential candidate, in which he said he would not “use Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” preferring to focus instead on fighting violent crime and potential terrorism.
The AP contributed to this story.