Two marijuana-friendly establishments in Trenton, New Jersey — one an eatery and one a religious organization — were raided by local authorities yesterday. The pro-weed restaurant NJ Weedman’s Joint, run by legalization activist Ed “Weedman” Forchion, and the weed-worshipping organization The Liberty Bell Temple 3 both received visits from the County Narcotics Task Force yesterday. The Trenton Police Department cooperated in the operation that resulted in several arrests, though only two of the nine arrestees were held on drug charges.
Forchion is being charged with multiple counts including 10 charges of marijuana possession and distribution, along with distribution of drug paraphernalia, maintaining booby traps in a distribution facility, and a narcotics nuisance charge.
Though 9 others were arrested during the raid, only two of the others were charged with drug offenses-one for possession and one for possession and distribution. The other 7 were charged with outstanding warrants.
Police seized vehicles and a dog on the property. Debi Madaio, Forchion’s business partner, said most of those arrested were released last night. Forchion will be released this evening on a $70,000 bond. Madaio stated that drugs were not being sold out of the restaurant or the church.
NJ Weedman’s Joint opened last June, and has had problems with Trenton police ever since. Despite being an eatery and a church, Weedman’s Joint has been a regional headquarters for marijuana legalization and decriminalization efforts in New Jersey and the East Coast.
“We’re the center for activism here,” Madaio, a registered nurse who has a son with disabilities, told HIGH TIMES. “I started this business from a medical point of view.”
Forchion filed a lawsuit against Trenton last month after the city shut down Liberty Bell Temple #3, the church attached to NJ Weedman’s joint. The church was shut down because of a city ordinance that makes operating some establishments after 11 p.m. a crime.
Forchion called on supporters of legalization in New Jersey last week to meet on 4/20 at 4:20 pm for an annual sit-in on the steps of the New Jersey State Capitol Building. Late last year, Forchion lit up a joint in Trenton City Council chambers after Trenton City Council shot down a resolution calling on the state to decriminalize marijuana.
New Jersey Governor and former presidential candidate Chris Christie is a staunch opponent of marijuana decriminalization. Though Christie passed a bill allowing for medical marijuana legalization, he has only been a recent proponent of medical marijuana legalization in New Jersey. Most recently, a state assemblyman recently planned to introduced legislation making medical marijuana legal for menstrual cramps.
Though a bill was introduced earlier this year to decriminalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, possession of a joint is still punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. 58% of New Jersey residents support decriminalization, according to a recent Rutgers University poll.
Madaio, who started the business with Forchion, was exasperated by the arrests due to New Jersey’s stringent marijuana laws. “Christie and everybody here, they’re so anti-marijuana. Even for medical marijuana. I’m a nurse, I have a lot to lose, and they’re making things up and acting like we’re drug dealers when we’re not.” Madaio said. “There’s nothing in Trenton — there are murders, there are homeless people. We’re doing something positive, and just because it has something to do with marijuana we get shut down. No matter what we’re not going away.”