Jury Nullifies in "NJ Weedman" Marijuana Trialby Phillip Smith
Oct. 23, 2012
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A Burlington County, New Jersey, jury acquitted longtime marijuana legalization and First Amendment gadfly Ed Forchion, better known as the NJ Weedman, on charges he possessed marijuana with the intent to distribute Thursday after he told jurors he needed marijuana for medicine and that they had the right to vote to acquit him despite the facts in the case.
The facts in the case seemed like a slam-dunk for the prosecution. The Weedman got caught with a pound of pot in his car after being stopped by a state trooper two years ago in Mount Holly and admitted it. People caught with that amount of marijuana (and even much smaller amounts) are routinely charged -- and convicted -- of possession with intent to distribute.
During the three-day trial, Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano told the jury New Jersey law prohibited the possession of large amounts of marijuana and it should easily convict Forchion. "It's straightforward," Luciano said.
But Forchion, who now resides in California and holds a California medical marijuana card, argued that the state's marijuana laws conflicted with its medical marijuana law, which was approved before he was arrested.
The Weedman ran into trouble with Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, though, when he brought up jury nullification -- the argument that jurors are free to vote as they wish despite the facts in the case. When Forchion brought up jury nullification, Delehey stopped him, warning that he could be held in criminal contempt if he continued. Delehey also told jurors they were to decide the case only on the facts, not on what they think of the law.
In his summation, prosecutor Luciano echoed the judge, asking jurors to not use their verdict to show their "opinion on the war on drugs."
The jury deliberated for two hours before coming back with a unanimous not guilty verdict.
"I'm not a weirdo anymore, I'm a hero," a jubilant Weedman told supporters and reporters after the verdict. "Other patients should start using the Weedman defense."
The case was a retrial. In his original trial stemming from the traffic stop, the jury convicted him of simple marijuana possession, but was unable to reach a verdict on the more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute. Forchion said he will appeal the possession conviction.
Forchion's courtroom antics also included telling the jury he was eating marijuana-infused cookies while he delivered his summation and asking Judge Delehey to order his "medicine" returned in the case of a not guilty verdict. Delehey refused, saying it was "contraband."
Prosecutors had no comment after the jury's decision.