BY BEN FINLEY
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — After battling the legal system on two coasts and spending time in and out of prison, New Jersey's loudest champion of marijuana went legit last year when he opened up a restaurant across from city hall in this state's capital city.
Now, he's headed back to court.
Ed Forchion, better known as NJ Weedman, said Wednesday that Trenton police infringed on his religious rights after shutting down the cannabis temple attached to his restaurant for operating too late at night last weekend.
He has filed an injunction in federal court to keep his temple open after 11 p.m. That's when many of his 600 congregants gather, some to smoke marijuana on a property that includes a large white cross festooned with ornamental marijuana leaves.
Police cleared out his "cannabis church" early Saturday because of a city ordinance that limits a business's hours.
"I call it a midnight mass," Forchion said. "I grew up in the Baptist church and have been to plenty of midnight services and midnight revivals. I should have the same rights as the Shiloh Baptist Church."
Forchion often campaigns for political office under the banner of marijuana legalization. And he's been on a long crusade in the courts, claiming that marijuana laws infringe upon his Rastafarian religion and unfairly discriminate against black people.
Forchion filed a petition this week with the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge his 2010 conviction for marijuana possession. Previous efforts in New Jersey's state courts have failed.
"It's a long shot, but long shots do come in," said Forchion's attorney John Vincent Saykanic.
Forchion's temple and his adjacent restaurant, NJ Weedman's Joint, were his way of starting a legitimate business last summer. He had spent time in and out of prison for marijuana possession and sometimes sold the drug. In 2012, federal agents in California raided his pot farm, confiscating 600 plants.
The restaurant's clocks are all stuck at the time of 4:20. And the joint offers $4.20 specials that include the "Fully Baked Burger." For $7.10, customers can get the "Budz Nugz," grilled salmon nuggets over a bed of mixed greens.
"I'm promoting peace and love in a violent city," Forchion said. "It's the marijuana culture. We're much more likely to give something to you than take something from you."
The temple, however, has drawn Forchion back under the gaze of police. Trenton police Lt. Stephen Varn said that "numerous citizen complaints in the area, including shots fired" prompted officers to clear out the temple.
But Forchion said no shots were ever fired in or around the temple.
Varn said police also are investigating whether the temple is actually a church or a business.
The New Jersey Division of Taxation said that Forchion's temple is registered as a for-profit entity. But Forchion disputed that, saying the paperwork lists its purpose as being a "cannabis church." He also said it's a subsidiary of a similar temple he owned in California.
Forchion said he will refile the paperwork if he has to. But he said the recent shutdown of his temple is an unneeded distraction as he petitions the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I've had a quiet year and I'm looking to do big things," Forchion said. "And now they want to squash me."
(Photo Courtesy of NewsWorks)
Arizona Saw 41 Percent Increase in Medical Marijuana Sales in 2018
Canadian Cannabis Activist Marc Emery Accused of Chronic Sexual Misconduct
Canopy Growth Expands Global Presence by Acquiring New York Hemp License
DEA Agent Implicated in 7-Million-Dollar Money Laundering Scheme
News5 days ago
Man Leaves Two Pounds of Pot in Uber, is Arrested Trying to Retrieve It
News4 days ago
Cop Caught with Child Porn Serves 90 Days in Jail; Man Selling Weed Gets 5 Year Sentence
News5 days ago
St. Louis, Missouri Will No Longer Prosecute Marijuana Possession Under 100 Grams
Science5 days ago
Is Psychedelic Healing in Your Genes? A Team of Scientists Seeks to Find Out
Culture4 days ago
10 Video Games to Play High as Hell in 2019
News3 days ago
Governor of New York Presents Plan to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
News2 days ago
Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed by Virginia Lawmakers
Laws4 days ago
Mass. Court Ruling: Police Can Arrest for Drugged Driving Based on Observations