Ed Forchion, dreadlocks falling across his face, sat in a booth at the Dolphin Diner on Route 130 in Burlington Township, explaining how he plans victory “for potheads everywhere.”
“I win this case, I’m a hero, a legend. One juror — just one — that’s all I need,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to tell who, too. You know how some people have ‘gaydar’ — they can tell who’s gay? I have ‘weedar.’ I can tell who’s cool with weed.”
He’ll look for that person in a courtroom at the county courthouse in Mount Holly, where his trial for possession of a pound of pot is set to begin May 1.
Forchion, 47, is known as NJWeedman, a celebrity among dedicated marijuana smokers.
At the diner, people wave to him. A man several booths away mouths “good luck.” Weedman returns the warm regards.
“See? That guy knows who I am,” he said.
Of course, it’s hard to miss his calling card in the parking lot — a van artistically adorned from bumper to bumper with pro-weed slogans, marijuana leaves, and depictions of himself blowing pot smoke into Uncle Sam’s face. He calls it the Weedmobil. He traveled in it with a friend from his home in Los Angeles, where he is the proprietor of a medical marijuana shop.
Or was. Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency busted him. This compounded his bust in Mount Holly in 2010. Forchion had been visiting family when he was pulled over for a traffic violation, and the police found weed in his rental car.
Now, awaiting trial, he’s broke and using Facebook to solicit contributions to put gas in the Weedmobil.
In spite of this, he seems a cheerful soul. He is a charming dining companion, tells good stories, smiles easily, and is unfailingly polite. His cause is the legalization of marijuana, which, he said, he uses daily. (He produced a document from Dr. Edward A. Alexander of Los Angeles, who vouches for Forchion’s need for pot, not only for medical reasons but also for “spiritual” reasons. Forchion is a Rastafarian.)
“I’ve been called a fakin’ Jamaican, but this is who I am,” he said.
Forchion was born in New Jersey and grew up in Sicklerville, Camden County. Good parents. Happy childhood.
“The first time I smoked pot was right here in Willingboro,” he said. “I was 14 or 15. It was the summer of 1979. It was a peer-pressure thing. My cousin was there, and these kids were all passing around a joint, right there in Pennypacker Park.”
He inhaled, got the giggles, and thoroughly enjoyed the high.
“That day was when I realized that pot is not some boogeyman, like in ‘Reefer Madness.’ That was a good day, a defining moment in my life,” he said.
After high school, Forchion enlisted in the Marines. A health issue got him a medical discharge. He spent six years in the Army, where he was trained as a medical technician.
He married, divorced and has five children, ages 5 to 26. He worked as an independent coast-to-coast trucker. It was in Phoenix in the early 1990s where he realized the appealing economics of dealing weed.
“You could buy a pound for $300 in Phoenix and sell it in Jersey for $1,200,” he said. “So I got 10 pounds and sold it. Then I got 30 pounds.”
He was rolling in dough. He bought a house in Chesilhurst, Camden County, next to the police chief’s place. In the late 1990s, he was busted, served three months in prison, got out, and moved to the pot-friendly West Coast.
Forchion’s case in Burlington County is novel in two ways. Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey will permit him to represent himself. Also, Forchion will attempt to get the jury to acquit him through nullification. That is, although jurors may believe a defendant is guilty, they acquit him anyway due to other circumstances.
He said his courtroom pitch will appeal to “common sense.”
“The law they’re prosecuting me under is unconstitutional,” he said. “The (federal law) classifies pot as a Schedule I drug, which means it has no ‘accepted’ medical value. On the other hand, the state of New Jersey has approved the use of medical marijuana. So, which is it?”
“Like I said,” said the Weedman, “all I need is one juror to agree with me. Just one.”