‘I’m selling weed on State Street and getting away with it.’ Marijuana activist ‘NJWeedman’ says legal cannabis would cut into his business
As New Jersey lawmakers work to create the state’s legal marijuana industry, the Garden State’s best-known cannabis activist and dealer says that he will be going about his business as normal.
“I was right 20 years ago. Right now, the public has caught up to me,” says Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion.
Forchion has fought and gone to prison for the right to legally use and sell marijuana. So, it might be a surprise to hear that while 66% of New Jersey voters approved legalizing pot last week, the state's most persistent cannabis crusader voted No on the amendment.
“So, what they’re doing is legalizing it for rich white guys and cutting us out,” says Forchion, who is Black.
As legislators at the State House struggled this week to hammer out laws to set up New Jersey’s new industry, Forchion was just down State Street in Trenton, doing his best to prove their plans are an irrelevant, unconstitutional pipe dream - by openly selling weed.
“You know how Donald Trump says he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it? I’m selling weed on State Street and getting away with it,” Forchion says.
Forchion has a business in Trenton – NJWeedman’s Joint – where for the past two years he has been selling marijuana to a steady stream of customers from all walks of life. Black, white, Latino, Asian – older white-collar retirees to the “working stiffs” from down the block.
The storefront is a restaurant and so-called temple located right across from Trenton City Hall, where the pots plants grow high and the Bill of Rights hangs on the front door. He says that sales are brisk and that prosecutors and police officers leave him alone.
And given the public opposition to keeping marijuana illegal, Forchion says that he is certain no jury in New Jersey would convict him even if he was arrested.
“Put me on trial. I don’t think you can get 12 [jurors.] If the state can get 12, I go to prison. If the state doesn’t get 12, I come back and start selling weed again,” he says.
Forchion says that he and his eight employees make a decent living. But he says that his business is also a political statement. Forchion opposes the referendum and current legalization bills, saying that lawmakers would turn the industry and its profits over to large corporations. He says that it's people like him - and small community businesses like NJWeedman’s Joint, that should reap the benefits of New Jerseyans' massive change of heart over the war on drugs.
“They’re cutting out all the guys like me. They’re cutting out all the little guys like me, the black market. The existing marijuana market,” Forchion says.
Forchion says that he plans to take the state to court if New Jersey’s legal marijuana market does not take small businesses into account.
Bills creating the legal marijuana market stalled in legislative committees this week as lawmakers negotiate over the level of taxes on pot, where that money should go and who will be eligible for licenses to sell it.