NJWeedman petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on March 7, 2016, to review State of New Jersey v. Forchion. This is the most famous marijuana case in New Jersey’s history and began when NJWeedman was arrested in 2010. That year the state’s landscape of marijuana laws changed dramatically with the passage of the NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) on January 18. NJWeedman immediately noticed the contradiction between NJ’s marijuana criminal laws and medical laws. The medical law under CUMMA identified marijuana as having medicinal value; whereas NJ’s 2C:35 criminal laws didn’t recognize any medical value and rated marijuana a Schedule 1 drug. This put two laws in direct contradiction, and NJWeedman wanted to expose that the state couldn’t have it both ways. How can one set of people be arrested for a plant that others were able to legally purchase? NJWeedman argued his case with the tactics of jury nullification, and used religious and medical necessity defenses.
On April 1, 2010, he pulled up to a red light on Route 38 in Mount Holly around 10:12 P.M. A police officer pulled up next to him. NJWeedman “got nervous” and glanced over at the trooper, who stared right back at him. Out of the corner of his eye, NJWeedman saw the left turn signal turn green and he started to drive a few feet before realizing his light was still red. NJWeedman claimed he only drove a few feet over the white line, but the trooper claimed all four tires crossed the white line and said the van stopped “basically in the middle of the intersection.” When the light turned green, NJWeedman was pulled over by State Trooper Ken Rayhon. NJWeedman was driving a rented black 2001 Pontiac Grand Am with a pound of “high-grade California Kush” inside. When Officer Rayhon approached the vehicle, NJWeedman sincerely asked the officer to “cut him a break,” claiming he didn’t have a valid drivers license and had outstanding child support payments. With no wallet on him, NJWeedman only presented the officer with his California identification card as well as the vehicle’s rental agreement – and that agreement listed Chanel Forchion, NJWeedman’s daughter, as the only registered driver, and that she rented it for NJWeedman because his license was suspended. From the passenger side window, the trooper noticed a crack in the windshield and a “multi-colored marijuana pipe in plain view on the rear driver side floor,” and also detected the “burnt smell of marijuana.” NJWeedman handed him the pipe and was then placed under arrest and charged with possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to obey a traffic signal, driving while suspended and driving with a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle.
The trooper patted him down and found $2,059 cash in his pocket, which was also seized. As he was arrested, NJWeedman still urged for leniency and began shouting his own fame, saying he was the “New Jersey Weedman.” After denying the trooper permission to inspect his vehicle, the trooper proceeded to tow the vehicle to the NJ State Police barracks in Bordentown Township, as NJWeedman was transported to the barracks for processing. At 1:30 A.M. Trooper Rayhon applied for a vehicle search warrant. When NJWeedman learned about the search warrant, he admitted possessing a pound of marijuana in a duffel bag inside the trunk. The large vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana was in the duffel bag, and a smaller bag of marijuana was found in the pocket of his laptop computer bag, which overall contained 454.7 grams of marijuana, or 16.039 ounces, essentially a pound. NJWeedman was transferred to Burlington County Jail.
On Monday, April 4, he made his first appearance in Superior Court before Judge James Palmer Jr., who raised bail from $25,000 to $50,000. On April 6, NJWeedman made a video promising to apply jury nullification in his trial to attack the hypocritical marijuana laws in NJ. The next few days NJWeedman was all over the press. He was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 7, denying the distribution charges: “A pound of marijuana is like a carton of cigarettes to me. What do they think I was going to do? Sell nickel bags on the corner?” he scoffed. “I’m the Weedman.”
On August 31, 2010, a Burlington County Grand Jury indicted NJWeedman on two charges: possession of CDS (marijuana) with intent to distribute (3rd degree), and possession of CDS (4th degree). His first appearance in court came on October 10, 2010, before Judge Jeanne T. Covert, who excused herself by citing past case work on NJWeedman (his 1998 Camden County Indictment), but she retained oversight and continued to be part of the case “in violation of the spirit of the recusal provisions.” Judge Covert therefore assigned the case to Judge Charles A. Delehey, aged 74 at trial, who retired in disgrace in 2009 after being charged with improper ex parte communications. NJWeedman plead “not guilty” at his October 12, 2010, arraignment, and aimed to dismiss the indictment. NJWeedman’s counsel filed a “Notice of Motion to Suppress Evidence” on December 16, 2010, before Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who permitted NJWeedman to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s marijuana laws.
On March 15, 2011, NJWeedman appeared in Superior Court of NJ Law Division in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, before Judge Delehey for his Motion to Suppress Evidence. At least three attorneys helped him in the beginning: public defender Donald Ackerman, who acted as standby counsel; John Vincent Saykanic of Clifton, NJ; and Kali Grech out of Oakland, CA. Assistant Prosecutor for Burlington County, Michael Luciano, argued for the state. NJWeedman argued he was racially profiled when he was pulled over. Judge Delehey denied NJWeedman’s motion to suppress the stop, and found there was “nothing unusual, untoward or out of the ordinary” in the stop of the Weedmobil, clarifying that race was not a factor and that the trooper “had a right to stop the vehicle.”
On the same day Judge Delehey presided over a “status conference,” which became an essential key to leading to NJWeedman’s arrest in 2013. What NJWeedman took away from this hearing was the idea that he was granted “a pre-trial agreement of stay pending appeal” – that he wouldn’t be incarcerated during his appeal process. This impression came from the statement made by prosecutor Michael Luciano, who said, “if he’s [NJWeedman] found not guilty, then Mr. Forchian [sic] is a free man. If he’s found guilty,” Luciano told Judge Delehey, “you could hold any type of sentencing in abeyance pending the resolution of his constitutional argument.” In short, the state prosecution wanted to move forward with both the “criminal trial” and the “constitutional challenge”, but of course the final decision came down to the “constitutional challenge.” Therefore NJWeedman believed he was protected from going to jail until he exhausted the Appeals system, but the March 15 status conference didn’t end there, so therefore this deal may have been cleared off the table, which was never cleared up by the court. Luciano’s deal was most likely voided by Public Defender Ackerman, who immediately pointed out the flaw of Luciano’s strategy – it put the cart before the horse. Ackerman convinced Judge Delehey that it didn’t make sense to proceed with the “criminal trial” before determining the validity of NJWeedman’s “constitutional argument.” Then Judge Delehey made the following statement (initially in support of prosecutor Luciano) that NJWeedman interpreted as his promised pre-trial agreement of stay pending appeal. Delehey said he would schedule the “conviction” trial on April 12. “And in the event of a conviction, Mr. Forchion isn’t going to have his liberty taken from him immediately, that will be stayed pending resolution of the Constitutional matter. And the Constitutional matter may take a month or two months to resolve. But at least the trial is going to be out of the way. The Court does believe it’s a two-track system.” Again, NJWeedman would use this as evidence of his get-out-of-jail-free card later on. But public defender Ackerman persuaded the judge to change his mind immediately after this statement. The judge decided instead to first test the “constitutionality” of the law in court on June 15, and, if necessary, set trial for June 21.
On April 20, 2011, NJWeedman’s lawyer John Vincent Saykanic filed an historic 82-page brief (107-page appendix) in NJ’s Burlington County Court (Indictment No. 2010-08-066-I), not only for NJWeedman’s defense, but for every pot smoker in the state. The legal brief listed eight reasons why the indictment must be dismissed. On June 15, 2011, NJWeedman entered Burlington County Court in his “Keep NJWeedman Free” t-shirt. NJWeedman won his motion to proceed pro se – the right to defend himself – after making the court laugh when he argued he knew a lot about law because he watched the show “Law & Order.” On June 30, 2011, Prosecutor Michael Luciano filed the state’s reply brief, which urged the court to deny NJWeedman’s Motion to Dismiss the Indictment. Judge Delehey denied NJWeedman’s Challenge Motion, which labeled the state law that criminalizes marijuana possession and distribution unconstitutional since NJ now had a medical marijuana law that recognized medicinal value.
The state’s reply brief was debated on July 19, 2011. NJWeedman arrived in court late that day, which angered Judge Delehey, who said NJWeedman “regularly comes to court at his convenience” with some sort of excuse. Court began without him. NJWeedman still challenged the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug; contended he was exempt from the criminal statute because he fell under CUMMA; and argued his freedom of religion was infringed upon. In the end, the judge denied NJWeedman the opportunity to respond to the state’s brief in writing, and also declared that the court reserved the decision to approve or deny the motion.
On September 6, 2011, in agreement with the prosecution, Judge Delehey released the “Memorandum of Law” that denied NJWeedman’s motion to dismiss the indictment. The list presented by the judge determined that the state’s CUMMA program “does not pre-empt” NJ statutes prohibiting cannabis; that CUMMA was not in effect when NJWeedman was arrested (law enacted January 2010, but went into effect July 2010); that the state statute prohibiting cannabis use did not violate NJWeedman’s constitutional rights; that the NJ Comprehensive Reform Act (CRA) was constitutional, not vague nor over-reaching like NJWeedman implied; and that NJWeedman failed to prove the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act was racist. This decision set up NJWeedman’s appeal. On October 19, 2011, at a pre-trial conference, Judge Delehey reversed his June 15 decision to allow NJWeedman to defend himself pro se. This occurred when NJWeedman repeatedly demanded to defend his case by arguing cannabis was not really a Schedule 1 drug, to provide expert witnesses, and to proceed pro se. Each time he brought up the first two subjects, the judge silenced him and threatened to remove his pro se rights, saying the choice was NJWeedman’s. “I don’t think the choice is mine,” NJWeedman shot back, angry that he was being told what to say in court. With all due respect, said the judge to NJWeedman, “you’re dancing with the court,” and finally ordered NJWeedman to be represented by attorney Ackerman.
Judge Delehey reversed himself again on January 3, 2012, when NJWeedman again won the right to defend himself pro se in his criminal trial. Although, NJWeedman only won this right after he reluctantly agreed to abide by the judge’s ruling that he “will advance no arguments to the jury to suggest that marijuana is not or should not be a substance proscribed by law in the State of New Jersey.” Judge Delehey said NJWeedman would be permitted to present a defense that the marijuana he possessed was for his own personal use and not for distribution, and he could also speak as a licensed medical marijuana holder. “The law will not be the issue. The issue will be the facts in the case,” the judge said. “The court will not allow a social type argument as a defense.” Prosecutor Luciano was quick to denounce NJWeedman. Luciano was concerned with the “orderly administration of justice” and NJWeedman’s “desire to make this into a social or political” debate. “I don’t believe, as we are sitting here today, that he will follow your rules,” Luciano said.
Jury selection began on May 1, 2012, at the Burlington County Courthouse in Mt. Holly, NJ. Colleen Begley arrived and worked with NJWeedman during jury selection, but NJWeedman later accused her of secretly working with law enforcement. Begley advised NJWeedman to choose jury member Melissa Roughgarden, a marijuana user who was friends with a Reverend from NJWeedman’s Liberty Bell Temple II. When Roughgarden was questioned on vior, she lied about not knowing NJWeedman and stated things that led NJWeedman to believe she was on his side, such as stating that her boyfriend was L.A. reggae star Fully Fullwood, who previously played with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Roughgarden was accepted as a juror in the case. Despite all of the evidence that Roughgarden was a pothead supporter, she actually led the conviction against NJWeedman as the “Jury Forewoman.” The last of the jury was selected on May 3. NJWeedman complained he wasn’t represented by a group of peers because only one black person was on the jury. The judge dismissed this saying there was no “systematic dismissal of jurors.”
Opening statements were made by both sides on May 3. The trial included three days of testimony, May 3, 8-9, with four witnesses. The main argument was whether NJWeedman intended to distribute weed, which the prosecution witness said was obvious from the “sheer volume of the drug coupled with $2,000 in cash.” Prosecutor Luciano stated:“This case is not a political referendum.” “It’s simply a case about freewill and the choices the defendant made and the consequences and repercussions of that choice. You can’t have marijuana in the state of New Jersey.” The most famous remark by Prosecutor Luciano was made in court on May 3. “Mr. Forchion is congenial, he’s polite, he’s intelligent. And Mr. Forchion is a charlatan. Mr. Forchion is a wolf in hemp clothing.”
On May 8, medical testimony was provided by NJWeedman’s friend, Dr. Steven Fenichel, who confirmed NJWeedman’s use of marijuana to fight his “giant cell” cancer tumors. Even though Dr. Fenichel was allowed to take the stand, Judge Delehey barred all medical marijuana expert witnesses. Closing remarks were made on May 8, before the jury deliberated for an hour, but reconvened for decision the following day.On May 9, the final day of trial, NJWeedman was almost held in contempt of court for his actions and words. During the lunch break, a juror witnessed NJWeedman giving an interview near the parking lot outside, which was reported to Judge Delehey. “The court didn’t see it, but what the court does know is that there has been a persistent attempt to somehow scuttle the judicial process,” Judge Delehey said. “It just makes conducting a fair trial difficult.” In his closing remarks, NJWeedman was cut off by Judge Delehey for bringing up Article 1, Section 6, of the NJ Constitution that read: “In all prosecutions, the truth may be given in evidence to the jury; and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact.”
On May 9 the jury reached a conclusion on both counts of simple possession and possession with intent to distribute. The more serious charge of “possession with intent to distribute” resulted in a hung jury, split 7 to 5 in favor of acquittal, and was subsequently thrown out. But he was found guilty of simple possession, which led him to criticize the jury by famously calling them all “Cowards.” NJWeedman won his case through jury nullification, despite the court’s attempts to prevent him from advocating it. Judge Delehey asked the “deadlocked panel” to use its lunch break for “more reflection and thought,” but still the jurors could not come to a consensus. The judge decided to accept the “partial verdict” and declared a “mistrial” on the distribution count. The state said it would ask for a speedy re-trial based on the distribution charges. NJWeedman later filed a motion to acquittal.
A Philly.com article from May 9 noted that NJWeedman’s case ventured into “uncharted territory.” Providing the dramatic confrontation that NJWeedman desired, the article read: “This drug case has become a forum on marijuana in a country divided over its medicinal uses and a state that has not quite come to terms with its 2010 law.” Philly Blurbs wrote that NJWeedman “became emotional while talking to the media after the verdict, with tears running down his face.” NJWeedman announced his disappointment after court to the press that he was stuck “in limbo” in NJ, unable to afford the required trips to CA for his cancer treatment. Luciano said the $50,000 bail “did not prohibit Forchion’s return to the West Coast or his medical treatments.” Judge Delehey revoked NJWeedman’s $50,000 bail and allowed him to remain free on his own recognizance, but he also ordered NJWeedman to sign an extradition waiver in case he had to be returned by CA authorities. Philly Blurb asked after trial what NJWeedman’s next weed shop would be called. He thought about anti-weed prosecutor Luciano, and stated:”How about ‘Luciano’s Place.’ That’s a good name, don’t you think?”
On August 14, 2012, the court proceeded in an “ex parte” manner – as in NJWeedman was excluded from participating in court. Ex parte is Latin for “on one side only,” or also defined as, “Done by, for, or on the application of one party alone.” An ex parte judicial hearing is one conducted for the benefit of only one party, something Judge Delehey was previously guilty of when he retired in 2009. The judge knew NJWeedman had called the day before and spoke with the Court’s secretary, “and asked if he could be heard on the speaker phone,” but this request was denied by the judge. Without NJWeedman present in court, the judge chose to listen to oral arguments at the hearing, saying the court didn’t “entertain” NJWeedman’s “continued attempted manipulation” of the court. Judge Delehey said he would be “very cautious” to limit any of the expert witnesses “rambling dissertations.” So once again NJWeedman was denied expert witnesses for his religious and medical defense. Judge Delehey denied NJWeedman’s motion for acquittal.The judge was willing to go to re-trial in order to punish NJWeedman. Re-trial was set for October 2012.
On September 16, 2012, the Trentonian predicted a victory for NJWeedman: “Smart money is on a hung jury or an acquittal, you ask me, because jurors on Forchion’s many cases somehow, some way find out about jury nullification and probably – educated guess here – find some common ground in the NJWeedman’s arguments that pot shouldn’t be illegal.” Jury selection began October 10, 2012, which ended with 11 women and three men. In October he told the Philadelphia Daily News he was “looking to plant one pot-friendly person in the jury pool, who might help him blaze a path to permanent freedom.” He also stated: “Fifty percent of Americans believe marijuana laws are wrong. I only need one.” On October 12, he told the Trentonian he was “conviction proof.” During the courtroom introductions, NJWeedman spoke to the jury, “I’m the victim in this case,” until he was cut off by the judge: “This is not the time for arguments, Mr. Forchion.” After meeting the jury, NJWeedman confirmed his suspicion: “I am very, very confident to the point that I am conviction proof. There’s no way the prosecutor is going to get 12 people to convict me.”
The first day of the trial was Tuesday, October 16, 2012. Prosecutor Luciano and his expert witness attempted to convince the jury that NJWeedman intended to distribute the pound of weed, estimating a potential profit of $4,500-$6,800 from selling it. But this didn’t stick. On October 18, NJWeedman won his case through jury nullification. Most impressive of all was the fact that it was a 12-0 decision: all 12 jurors found NJWeedman not guilty. The decision came after NJWeedman was nearly held in contempt of court after he tried to introduce his jury nullification strategy into his closing arguments. Judge Delehey and NJWeedman argued in court until the judge ordered the jury out of the room and threatened NJWeedman with contempt of court. “If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you,” the judge said. “You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.” NJWeedman returned after the recess without his jury nullification arguments. Instead, he focused on discussing his own plight. “I don’t use it the way the state says. To me, it’s medicine, it’s food,” he said, noting for the jury that he had been eating pot-laced cookies throughout the trial. “I feel I’m the victim of a flawed law.” “This case will be noted,” the Trentonian wrote in the October 20 article“Jury Upends Marijuana Law, NJweedman Walks Free.” Nothing said this more than the support and endorsement from the head of national NORML, Keith Stroup, who was impressed by Weedman’s court skills.”Unanimous,” Stroup said. “The guy does have some charm, and it’s a clear statement the jury recognized they had that power to nullify the law.”
NJWeedman returned to court on January 16, 2013, and was found guilty of “fourth-degree marijuana possession,” and received two years of probation, more than $3,400 in fines and fees, and a suspended license. “I’m happy I’m not going to prison,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Judge Delehey denied NJWeedman’s verbal “stay of sentence” pending appeal. Instead, the judge took time to list all the charges under NJWeedman’s criminal record, including over 40 arrests and 14 municipal court convictions. Prosecutor Luciano urged that NJWeedman serve 12-18 months in prison because his arrest record warranted incarceration. Judge Delehey said NJWeedman’s arrest record suggested he was a “died in the wool recidivist.” Yet Judge Delehey said probation was warranted because NJWeedman did “not fit among a group of hardened criminals that include murderers [and] rapists.” Luciano paid NJWeedman a compliment by describing him as “one of the most interesting characters I have come across in terms of prosecution.” NJWeedman was quoted by Philly.com inviting Prosecutor Luciano to “smoke a bowl with me sometime.” NJWeedman felt he was stabbed in the back at the January 16 hearing. His stay of sentence pending appeal, which he believed was promised to him from the March 2011 hearing, was denied. Now he was forced on probation, which he never agreed to. NJWeedman began preparing to file a formal-reconsideration motion and ignored his probation.
So on January 17, 2013, only 24 hours after NJWeedman won his case, Judge Delehey held an improper ex parte hearing, where a fugitive warrant was issued for NJWeedman’s arrest. In NJWeedman’s “ethics complaint against Delehey” on August 5, 2013, he explained that neither he nor his lawyer was informed about Delehey’s hearing on January 17. It was also out of line that a fugitive warrant was issued so quickly, usually taking several weeks. He concluded: “I believe Judge Grant or some other political entity forced Judge Delehey to sentence me to jail time and the probation violation was the crap excuse used.” Judge Delehey allowed NJWeedman to travel to California while on probation in order to receive his cancer treatments. On January 31, 2013, NJWeedman was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport as he prepared to fly to CA for his cancer treatments. The County Sheriff’s Department worked in conjunction with Philadelphia police to make the arrest. He was held in Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility for 17 days under a $200,000 bail, before he was transferred to Burlington County Jail, where he stayed for 29 days (January 31 – March 14). At a hearing in Philadelphia Municipal Court on February 11, Weedman “waived extradition” to NJ, which meant he “chose not to fight his return to face a probation violation.” On February 19, 2013, Superior Court Judge Terrence Cook denied bail for Weedman, which left Weedman in jail until his March 12 court date. In court February 19, Weedman stated via a closed-circuit television transmission from the county jail in Mount Holly: “I didn’t realize I had to report.” He continued: “I thought there was another legal matter pending before that.” He said his tumors were “killing me.” Judge Cook told NJWeedman to receive treatment within the prison for the time being: “Let the jail know that you have a medical condition and they will treat you to the extent that they can.” On February 26, POD Ackerman wrote a Supplemental Letter to Judge Delehey out of concern the prosecutor and probation “acted precipitously and without informing counsel before seeking a warrant…” This letter raised concern that the state punished NJWeedman for practicing jury nullification.
On March 12, 2013, NJWeedman appeared in Burlington County Court for his “violation of probation (VOP) plea and sentence.” Judge Delehey vacated NJWeedman’s probationary sentence from January and sentenced him to a 9-month sentence in Burlington County Jail, after he pleaded guilty to violating his probation. NJWeedman claimed that he was forced to plead guilty, or else the Judge would have held his health hostage by threatening to cut off his cancer treatments. Just as he did in January, Prosecutor Luciano urged that NJWeedman serve an 18-month sentence. This was denied by Judge Delehey in favor of a shorter sentence. Typically, inmates could be released from a nine-month sentence after serving 80 or 90 days, but NJWeedman only served 45 days by then. NJWeedman received “jail credits” from April 1-5, 2010, and January 31 – March 12, 2013, for a total of 45 days. As the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote the next day, NJWeedman was sentenced to a “harsher term for violating probation than he had received for possessing a pound of marijuana.” Judge Delehey viciously attacked NJWeedman in court on March 12: “He was given a probationary sentence. He was given the opportunity to go back to California to serve it, and I ordered the transfer,” the judge said. “This court did everything other than give him the keys to the city.” Then Judge Deleyhey notoriously remarked about NJWeedman: “He has played his health as if it was a Stradivarius.”
NJWeedman was ordered released from prison on March 14, 2013, after an order was signed by Judge Covert. The order released NJWeedman from prison to allow him to attend his cancer treatment in CA over the next few months, and he was ordered to report back to court for review on September 10. Prior to this review NJWeedman filed a Motion for “Stay of Sentence Pending Appeal.” NJWeedman appeared back in Burlington County Court on September 10, 2013. He was ordered to serve the remainder 270 days of his sentence, lasting from September 2013-January 2014. In accommodation of NJWeedman’s cancer treatment, Judge Delehey ordered NJWeedman to serve his sentence in what is known as a “staggered term” – meaning the sentence was broken down and served in parts, not just all at once. So NJWeedman was put on a 20-day-in and 10-day-out schedule, serving his first 20 days from September 20 – October 8. This is known as a medical furlough, and under the inmate furlough program certain inmates could be temporarily released from custody under carefully prescribed conditions. This staggered sentence only seemed to lampoon the idea of being jailed for pot. Here was the big irony: NJWeedman was forced to serve 20 days in prison for smoking weed, just so he could be let out for 10 days to take his medicine of Denosumab along with marijuana. This only proved NJWeedman’s point even more that the criminal and medical laws for marijuana were in absolute contradiction. But it was clear Judge Delehey was aggravated over NJWeedman’s tactics. “He won’t be denied treatments, but this court is not giving him a free pass,” said Judge Delehey, noting that NJWeedman violated the “lenient” probation. “He walked right out of the courthouse. He was making his own rules again. … It was a thumb-your-nose attitude at the court,” the judge intoned, claiming it was that “total disregard” and NJWeedman’s “nuts-to-the-court-system-I’m-out-of-here” attitude that warranted the jail sentence.
On September 11, 2013, NJWeedman’s application to stay his sentence pending his appeal was denied by Judge Delehey. NJWeedman filed an “Amended Notice of Appeal” in response to the denial of his “stay of sentence,” and he also filed an “Application for Permission to File Emergent Motion.” In an Order filed September 23, the Appellate Division denied the “stay of the nine-month VOP sentence.” On September 24, the Supreme Court denied NJWeedman’s application stay sentence “pending further review by the N.J. Supreme Court on October 1, 2013.” On October 3, the NJ Supreme Court denied the motion for a “stay of sentence.” On October 17, 2013, NJWeedman motioned pro se to withdraw the guilty plea he entered on March 12. The withdraw of the guilty plea was denied by Judge Delehey on October 24, without holding the required “evidentary hearing.” “The state’s best-known marijuana activist is back in jail,” wrote the Times of Trenton on September 24. NJWeedman reported to Burlington County Jail on September 20 to serve the first 20 days of his 270-day sentence. After being let out of prison on November 5, NJWeedman issued a “Request for Medical Clemency” that asked Governor Christie to grant clemency for a “Stay of Sentence” pending appeal, but this was ignored.
NJWeedman’s case gained steam on January 26, 2014, when the Trentonian wrote a supportive article of NJWeedman that also pointed out the hypocrisy of the state’s marijuana laws: “Forchion is in jail due to marijuana and he gets out of jail once a month – for 10 days – to go smoke marijuana. Catch-22? More like a Fugazi-420.” This story spread worldwide and was picked up by Fox News and the Daily Mail in London, creating more publicity around NJWeedman’s peculiar incarceration. NJWeedman appeared before Judge Delehey on January 30, 2014, and was told he was completely finished with his prison sentence. NJWeedman was thrilled to be out of prison, but he continued his appeal efforts. On March 17, 2014, NJWeedman’s attorney John Saykanic filed a brief to the Superior Court of NJ Appellate Division (“On Appeal from Judgements of Conviction”), a 65-page Brief listing 8 points of unconstitutional offenses. The state filed a 53-page Response Brief on August 20, 2014. On October 1, John Saykanic sent a 20-page Letter Reply Brief to Burlington County Court, responding to the points made in the state’s brief. He listed six points that questioned the constitutionality of the trial, demanding the court to reverse the conviction and dismiss the indictment with prejudice.
On October 8, 2014, NJWeedman introduced the “Motion to Supplement the Record with ACLU Report.” It was granted by the Appellate Division on October 30, 2014, with the supplemental statement: “The merits panel will give the report the attention to which it deserves.” NJWeedman submitted the motion to supplement, alleging that NJ’s marijuana laws were “racist.” He quoted from the June 2013 ACLU 186-page report, “The War on Marijuana in Black & White – Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biassed Arrests.” This showed black people were 2.8 times more likely to be arrested than whites in NJ. On November 17, 2014, in Superior Court of NJ Appellate Division, NJWeedman filed his own pro se supplemental brief:“On Appeal from Judgements of Conviction of the Superior Court of New Jersey”. The 53-page brief by NJWeedman demanded the conviction be overturned and the indictment be dismissed with prejudice. The nine issues raised by NJWeedman were essentially the same as the eight points raised by Saykanic on October 1.
The Superior Court of NJ Appellate Division heard NJWeedman’s consolidated appeals on May 27, 2015, before the three- judge panel of Judge Messano, Judge Hayden and Judge Sumners. NJWeedman and Saykanic presented 17 different arguments. In a 31-page decision on Friday, August 7, 2015, the Superior Court rejected NJWeedman’s appeal and confirmed his 2010 conviction. The court disagreed with some of NJWeedman’s claims and refused to address other arguments by him because they “lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion.” The appellate panel agreed with the trial judge’s findings.”In this case, the fact that marijuana may be medically prescribed for some New Jersey citizens does not create a secular exemption that triggers strict scrutiny analysis,” the appellate judges declared. NJWeedman told NJ.com he planned on taking the case to NJ Supreme Court: “When this case started on April 1st 2010 – I knew it would go on for years and end up in the states ‘HIGHEST.'” On December 15, 2015, the NJ Supreme Court denied NJWeedman’s petition for certification. On March 7, 2016, John Saykanic and Allan Marain filed for NJWeedman a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 51-page petition listed 10 reasons for why the Court should grant the petition for writ of certiorari. Now we wait and see if NJWeedman can possibly overthrow the state’s contradictory marijuana laws.
Epilogue (updated May 20, 2016)
On May 9, the U.S. Supreme Court docket listed his case as being “distributed for conference” beginning May 12, which was when the justices’ would meet and discus the merits of the case. If it was not discussed, then it was automatically denied. NJ.com’s May 9 article quoted Weedman: “I hope because of the time we live in, that they at least hear the case, which would be a victory.” He said he only needed the support of a few justices’, and he put his money on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who spoke favorably of jury nullification. “I just hope Sotomayor sees that and I’m just hoping another justice jumps on it,” Weedman said. The Supreme Court received up to 10,000 certiorari petitions for each term and heard between 80 and 100 cases. Attorney Saykanic called it a “long shot.” “And like I’ve said in the past, long shots do come in.”
The Burlington County Prosecutors Office did not file a response to Weedman’s Supreme Court petition, waiving the right to do so. Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi stated May 9: “We are confident that the Supreme Court will decide not to entertain Mr. Forchion’s petition for review.” This case was also reported on May 10 by NJ 101.5 radio and The Intelligencer . An NJ.com editorial from May 12 read: “Indeed, it’s highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would give Forchion’s case any legal weight by agreeing to hear it. But the knotty legal issues he is raising will need to be untangled, perhaps in a more sober case.” NJ.com confirmed that the complicated marijuana laws were due for a change. It concluded: “As attitudes and laws regarding pot change, the courts will have to keep up with the changing culture. Forchion is merely a reflection of that change.”
The U.S. Supreme Court officially denied NJWeedman’s case on Monday, May 16. That same day Burlington County Times, Bucks County Courier Times, and The Intelligencer released, “Up in Smoke: U.S. Supreme court will not hear NJ Weedman’s case.” NJ.com on May 17 quoted a let-down NJWeedman: “Just nothing. Major disappointment.” He said the rejection stung more than any previous incident in his marijuana career. “That bothers me more than anything,” he said. “I put six years into that.” It’s true, all his work since 2010 went out the window along with this decision.