PW Exclusive: DEA Takes Down N.J. Weedman's California Pot Operation

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 23 | Posted Dec. 23, 2011

Share this Story:

The long, strange saga of Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion—marijuana folk hero and New Jersey weed activist-turned-California weed capitalist—has taken a turn for the worse.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, Forchion was driving in Los Angeles on his way to sign a lease for a second location for his Liberty Bell Temple—the popular Hollywood Boulevard pot dispensary he's operated for more than three years—when he was pulled over by an LAPD squad car. Within a few moments, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency joined in on the stop. Forchion was put in handcuffs and informed that the DEA was commencing a raid of the Liberty Bell Temple—as well as Forchion's apartment and his marijuana grow operation, located inside a nondescript Los Angeles warehouse—on suspicion of violating federal drug laws.

While California law allows medicinal marijuana dispensaries and related growing facilities (and Forchion was licensed by the state to operate such facilities), federal laws that prohibit such operations supercede state law, and the Obama administration has initiated a crackdown on medical marijuana facilities in California this year.

Federal authorities seized all of the marijuana, money, computers, phones, security cameras and paperwork at the Liberty Bell Temple and dismantled the entire shop; turned his apartment upside down and took more computers, cameras, phones, videotapes and paperwork; and removed 600 marijuana plants from Forchion's grow facility, in the process smashing lights and other grow equipment and seizing four dogs belonging to Forchion and sending them to the pound. The feds also froze his bank accounts. Forchion was detained for about five hours and then released without being charged.

"They told me I was lucky I didn't have 1,000 plants or I would've gotten an automatic federal charge, and I'd probably be sitting in jail for two years waiting for trial," says Forchion, calling PW on his girlfriend's phone from his trashed apartment, where he returned yesterday after "going off the grid" for a week following the raid.

Still, Forchion believes it's "just a matter of time" before he's arrested on federal charges. According to DEA marijuana trafficking penalties, a first-time offender convicted of possessing 1,000 plants is hit with a mandatory sentence of no less than 10 years in prison; a conviction on possession of 100 to 999 plants means a minimum of five years.

Forchion says that his whole marijuana operation—in which he says he'd invested more than $300,000 over the past three years—has gone up in smoke, and that as of last night he was down to his last 10 bucks after splurging on a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's yesterday morning.

"I came here from Jersey [four years ago] with 500 bucks in my pocket and a promise from my mom that if I failed, she'd buy a plane ticket to come back," says Forchion, whose weed-fueled exploits over the last 15 years—as detailed in a PW cover story in October—earned him the title of "Superhero of the Potheads."

"I feel like I was doing really well," he sighs.

Last night, he was trying to come up with the $500 necessary to get his four dogs out of the pound. His long-running website, NJWeedman.com, had been down since the raid, replaced by a message from his service provider saying the site was “suspended," but it was back up as of yesterday afternoon—Forchion didn't know if the DEA had something to do with that. Meanwhile, he says, the 17 people he employed at the Liberty Bell Temple and grow site are now out of work—"right before Christmas, too"—but that none were detained because he called the shop as he was being pulled over to warn them of the impending raid, and everyone immediately evacuated the premises.

Forchion says that DEA officers who detained him last week told him they'd had him under surveillance since early November. According to the federal search warrant obtained by PW, DEA agents received a tip in August from a confidential informant about the whereabouts of Forchion's grow operation, which Forchion insists he's kept a secret from everyone except his closest business associates.

"Someone ratted on me," says Forchion. "I guess I have a hater amongst my people or something."

But Forchion believes he—and not the many hundreds of medical marijuana operations that continue to operate freely in Los Angeles—was specifically targeted for the raid because authorities in New Jersey "sicced the government on me." According to the warrant, Burlington County Assistant District Attorney Michael Luciano—who's prosecuting Forchion on a marijuana possession with intent to distribute charge in a trial slated for April—had multiple conversations with the DEA in September and November discussing the N.J. case against Forchion. Luciano also told the DEA that Forchion may be facing additional charges for mailing small vials of marijuana to Luciano, Gov. Chris Christie and more than a dozen other N.J. officials between April and September of this year. Forchion says it was a stunt aimed at encouraging the recipients to "chill out" over weed laws.

Forchion claims DEA agents told him the raid was politically motivated. "They didn't hide it," says Forchion. "[A DEA agent] said that I apparently pissed off New Jersey state officials and they called the Justice Department. He said, 'You should just shut down, you should close down, that's what the politicians want, they want you to shut up. Are you going to shut up?' There was no secret to it."

Neither the DEA nor Luciano's office responded to phone calls seeking comment.

"It's the whole squeaky wheel thing—I guess I was too squeaky," says Forchion, who says he has no regrets about mailing weed to the governor and others. "I know what I'm gonna hear: 'Well, what did you expect?' And to be honest with you, that may have played a little role in this," he laughs.

"I did kind of push the line, and I got some pushback," he continues. "But I'm still the Weedman, you know? I mean, without trying to sound goofy, I do feel like I'm the Martin Luther King of marijuana."

Potential federal charges aside, Forchion's also concerned that he's so broke at the moment that he won't be able to afford a plane ticket back to New Jersey for a mandatory Jan. 3 pre-trial hearing for his April court date—if he misses that, he fears, a warrant for his arrest could be issued. "I'm sure Luciano is gonna think, 'This is great—he doesn't have the money to fly back and forth,'" says Forchion. "He knows this was a big disruption in my life."

And beyond the immediate mess he's in, Forchion has no idea what he's going to do moving forward. "The way my life was last week is over. I'm the Weedman. I never wanted to be called the Weedless Man, and right now that's what I appear to be. I can't go back to New Jersey. What am I gonna do, go back to driving a truck? Nobody's gonna hire me, and I don't have money to get my own truck back on the road."

Page: 1 2 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend

COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 23 of 23
Report Violation

1. A quick 90 said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 05:15PM

“Wow, I was just at LBT on sunday, dec 11th..just TWO DAYS before the raid, I was petting two of the guard dogs and relaxing with my boyfriend, discussing our experiences over the past year and mediating on the coming year...I remember looking to the ceiling and suddenly feeling an erie vibe of waning comfort ... The next day at my hatha flow yoga class, I felt compelled to dedicate part of my practice to 215 peace and 420 acceptance, I imagined the murals painted on the ceiling at LBT just before I sunk into my meditation...I still hold those vibes and send you my luck

Amber , longbeach CA”

Report Violation

2. Colleen Begley said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 06:52PM

“Great reporting yet again Michael! Out of respect to my proximity to the situation and my lawyer, Dan Rosenberg, I will limit my comments. My thoughts and prayers, as always, are with Ed and the Liberty Bell Temple staff. I attended Governor Christie's Spotswood townhall meeting last week and have put in a formal request for a meeting with him about resolving some of our differences. I intend to try to establish a relationship that can create a reasonable and respectful dialog addressing the future of New Jersey's Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act. I have called on advocates, patients and activists to support me in a new approach in 2012. We are not going to b haters in 2012 as it has been ineffective so far. As a group we will b abiding by a New Years Resolution for Medical Marijuana reform in New Jersey. I will b posting a link to this on the Friends of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey's facebook page this evening. Reasonable Resolutions can b reached!”

Report Violation

3. John Chase said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 11:34PM

“As Michael Alan Goldberg wrote on Oct 17th, he is being prosecuted because
"..... he is the infamous 'New Jersey Weedman'—unrepentant ganja smoker, loudmouth legalization advocate and longtime folk hero to a sizeable marijuana community in Philly, South Jersey and all across the nation." The DEA knows that he is a danger to their careers to let him continue to speak out.

Report Violation

4. Anonymous said... on Dec 25, 2011 at 07:11AM

“Keep your head up 'New Jersey Weedman' I know that hope comes in our darkest hour and the fire in your heart that put you on this voyage in this part of your life will guide you threw this too as well !! Peace n pot <33

Report Violation

5. Steven Bucci said... on Dec 25, 2011 at 04:28PM

“Mr. Chris Christie. You need to hear the people now. Be honest with yourself. The Truth is Law. Ed Weedman is a good, honest, strong man. His character as a man is better than most in America today. Do the right thing.”

Report Violation

6. Ken Wolski, RN said... on Dec 26, 2011 at 10:37AM

“There will be a (another) demonstration in support of Ed Forchion when his trial resumes on April 10, 2012 starting at 8:30 am outside Superior Court of Burlington Co., in Mount Holly, NJ. Follow Facebook's Friends of Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey for updates.”

Report Violation

7. Chuck Jagoda, Cannabis Activist said... on Dec 26, 2011 at 03:41PM

“I support Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion and his peeps in their effort to reform the laws against the worlds greatest medicine. For the government to prosecute those who seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to make citizens INsecure in their homes, to stop people from taking care of their own health needs--is all exactly the opposite of what government was constituted to do. Some things in life are more backwards than others. The weed laws are among the most backwards things we do in this country. Some people even consider the present anti-weed laws murder--in that they prevent people from securing the medicine that would literally save their lives. New Jersey is the most offending of the states that have recognized a need for medical marijuana. The limits are the most stringent, the availability is the most limited.”

Report Violation

8. Ras Michael said... on Dec 26, 2011 at 09:46PM

“Trust in Jah and everything will fall back in order. Remember to seperate church from state. I believe thats where the conflict is and that will be the solution. WE need to have a gathering honering Jah and all the fruits that he has provided us and the fruits he will give us in the future. With Jah no dea,fbi or atf can conquer. The Liberty Bell Temple will continue to survive if we keep church and state seperate. Then we will be able to meditate and medicate praising Jah. Big Up NjWeedMan for the struggle. Lets bring all the original members together and discuss the future of the Temple and find solutions on how we can keep it safe from outside forces.”

Report Violation

9. Ras Michael said... on Dec 26, 2011 at 09:47PM

“Trust in Jah and everything will fall back in order. Remember to seperate church from state. I believe thats where the conflict is and that will be the solution. WE need to have a gathering honering Jah and all the fruits that he has provided us and the fruits he will give us in the future. With Jah no dea,fbi or atf can conquer. The Liberty Bell Temple will continue to survive if we keep church and state seperate. Then we will be able to meditate and medicate praising Jah. Big Up NjWeedMan for the struggle. Lets bring all the original members together and discuss the future of the Temple and find solutions on how we can keep it safe from outside forces.”

Report Violation

10. Anonymous said... on Jan 6, 2012 at 08:26PM

“I have been going to liberty bell temple for along time now & its a beautiful place (painting on the walls, etc) but.... it annoys me to hear him talk about his 17 workers out of work & it is a joke, they treated all there workers like slaves & there "temple" patients too. His spouse was the worse, with mistreatment of fellow members & workers. There wasn't even dreadlocked people in there but a mexican woman w/ dreads....it bothers me to see someone fight for a cause we all believe in but at the same time ruin it too. People like myself went to find harmony & found alot of drama that shouldn't have been going on in a "Rastafarian" temple...Mr. Nj. Weedman, you shouldn't have people feeling sorry for you when your not telling the whole truth. I believe in legalization & justice for all, but I don't want someone as careless as you being my voice

Highly ANnoyed
Anonymous”

Report Violation

11. Annoynymous said... on Jan 8, 2012 at 09:17PM

“why do people support a guy who is blatantly breaking the law that allowed him to operate in California legally? this dude took advantage of the system, got caught, and now blames the system itself? hey maybe he shouldn't have admitted to using fedex to ship his medical marijuana across the country, ya think? folk hero, martyr, victim, the MARTIN LUTHER KING of cannabis? please.... send his ass to prison while real Californians follow the medical marijuana laws and don't flaunt it to their east coast counterparts. LOL there is no mention of "religious freedom" in Prop 215, quit pulling the Rasta angle.

I agree with annoyed anonymous, this so called "weedman" is only out to protect himself and his bank account. don't give money to this con artist.

he does not represent the true voice of the cannabis movement.”

Report Violation

12. NJWeedman said... on Jan 12, 2012 at 03:15PM

“There are haters everywhere - if it was so bad why'd you keep coming for a longtime as you put it? 17 is light actually. I just read your comment and counted 20!
You obviously didn't know the extent of the lbt operation. For instance how many trimmers are there? How many guards? How many DJ's ? What about the hosts for the lounge?

Why not use your name? What's your beef?

Report Violation

13. NJWEEDMAN said... on Jan 12, 2012 at 03:28PM

“Are you a dea agent? I haven't used FedEx in 15 years lol lol! "flaunt" I was showing the east coasters that the sky didn't fall because marijuana was being used in California!

The "Rasta" angle has nothing to do with prop 215, your right! Ever heard of the first amendment? The temple was incorporated as a religious organization and one of its goals was to provided to patients, but there are others as well.

Why no name what's your agenda here?”

Report Violation

14. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2012 at 04:11PM

“NJ,
Its interesting how you have let all your employees down by your careless actions & then take offense to someone pointing them out. Now you say you had 20 workers, in your so-called "Temple" & lounge??? Wonder if those even have any license to operate???? Point is your wiling to throw others under the bus it seems for your own pleasure, just to have a voice. Pathetic. When I last heard you called yourself the "Martin Luther King" of cannabis, well Mr. Weedman, last i checked he actually stood for peoples rights & never stole, robbed, lied, trafficed, illegally operated store fronts, etc. Its ashamed you choose such a man of stature to compare yourself with. You should be ashamed of yourself.I openly say I'm not a "hater" as you put it, I just hate people who use a concept to further there own agenda. As for you being a "Rasta" & using your amendment rights, is silly. Does your first amendment rights give your a pass to operate your businesses illegally & send marijuana via mail??”

Report Violation

15. Anonymous said... on Jan 12, 2012 at 04:43PM

“I'm not a DEA agent..lol...lol, but interesting you think i am...lol. I have no agenda but to voice my opinion on this matter as you are voicing your opinion to everyone who's willing to listen....Mr.NJ Weedman, I dont feel i need to place a name to satisfy your rant of mumbo jumbo. Plan and simple you come across clearly as a con artist as one other comment put it...Your not doing anybody any good or helping the legalization of marijuana when you do the things your doing (sending marijuana in the mail, etc.) How does anybody but you benefit from that? Why not make your voice about something positive for the legalization of marijuana and not about your legal issues that you clearly created for yourself!! There's always two parts to a story & NJ Weeman, seems like your not telling the truth about the whole picture. Is honesty not what's going to set you free? Or your ok with living a lie you clearly have come to accept...a con artist?

Report Violation

16. Gian-Singh Khalsa said... on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:55PM

“Greetings. It's a temple and the teaching is that it's all Jah and Jah is the only support. Without stabilility in this, especially when involved in activism, a person can drown in the apparant surface differences and personal reactions. We keep up gracefully wether it rains bullets or bills(donations). The other person is you. Let's respond from a basis of Truth rather than reacting to what the passing show throws us. Jah Rastafari”

Report Violation

17. NJWeedman said... on Jan 13, 2012 at 05:47PM

“Why shouldn't the people of Nj, pa or the other 35 states that haven't recognized marijuanas goodness be denied. I'm sorry u have the I got mine mentality and I have the here share mine mentality.

I shared the goodness in jersey before I got to cali and I'm glad I still share and haven't forgotten where I came from. As far as illegal - the fed's say its all illegal! What are you choosing what law to respect and which one not to? I don't respect any of the marijuana laws and haven't since I was a kid. I'm not ashamed of it on fact I'm smoking a joint right now which is illegal via the federal government.

The raid was because in August someone went to DEA with info which launched investigation and then yes the stories about the new jersey governor hit the fan in late oct, burlington county prosecutor Luciano communicated with la based DEA and the rest you know.

I'm still gonna win my case in jersey!

Report Violation

18. NJWEEDMAN said... on Jan 14, 2012 at 10:51AM

“I look at the war on drugs as a civil rights issue this the analogy of mlk, who looked a segregation as a civil rights issue.”

Report Violation

19. Anonymous said... on Jan 16, 2012 at 12:08AM

“so why do you make your members sign a statement saying they must worship GOD and call themselves rastafarians when they dont have a clue what rasta means? in other words, you are operating illegally and not in the concern for your patients, who you think are all undercover agents . LOL.

sorry to say, I knew you would get raided and shut down, it was a matter of time. that why i stopped coming to your so called "temple"

...oh, and you troll the Internet trying to defend your name.”

Report Violation

20. NJWEEDMAN said... on Jan 20, 2012 at 05:30AM

“You need to re-read that membership agreement. That is not what it says! And it absolutely doesn't say anything close to you "must call yourself a Rastafarian".

Report Violation

21. NJWEEDMAN said... on Jan 20, 2012 at 05:30AM

“You need to re-read that membership agreement. That is not what it says! And it absolutely doesn't say anything close to you "must call yourself a Rastafarian".

Report Violation

22. Anonymous said... on Feb 25, 2012 at 12:29AM

“okay let's re-read that agreement.

"LBT II Membership rules

-All members shall believe in "GOD", there are no exceptions to this rule.

- All members MUST worship Haille Selassie (God-Jah, Rastafari) requiring the ingestion of ganja to properly practice this religion.

- All members while in the Temple MUST follow the tenants (sic- it's tenets) of RASTAFARI

-All members are required to pray while in the Temple

"
...

those are the first four rules verbatim.

Report Violation

23. Anonymous said... on Aug 4, 2012 at 08:08PM

“every one needs to stop acting like you are innocent.,we all have faults..its just thnat because weedman is doing what all you fake a## wantabeez are scared to do,he did it,so support the cause,,he has stood up for what we all want but had no guts to do it..

weedman,,keep up the fight,,i know you will succeed,,”

ADD COMMENT

Rate:
(HTML and URLs prohibited)

Related Content

Smokey and the Bandit
By Jonathan Valania

Ed Forchion is no saint. If his arrest record were of the musical variety, it would be a double album or a boxed set. And yet in these warped through-the-looking-glass times we live in, where officia...

Related Content

Ed Forchion, aka "N.J. Weedman," Puts His Freedom on the Line—Again
By Michael Alan Goldberg

The officer who had just pulled Ed Forchion over was about to learn a few things about the bearded black guy with the long dreads. One: Forchion was the infamous “New Jersey Weedman”—unrepentant ganja smoker, loudmouth legalization advocate and longtime folk hero to a sizeable marijuana community in Philly, South Jersey and all across the nation. Two: Forchion’s New Jersey driver’s license was suspended for failure to pay child support. And three: Forchion had a pound of high-grade, vacuum-sealed marijuana in a duffel bag in the trunk of his car.

RELATED: Medical Marijuana in New Jersey: 'This Law Was Designed to Fail'