Article by Edward Dodge, Merryjane.com
Longtime cannabis activist Edward Forchion, a.k.a. NJ Weedman, has had a terrible 2016. His Trenton, N.J. restaurant, The Joint, and cannabis sanctuary, the Liberty Bell Temple, are nearing failure after being repeatedly harassed by the police who succeeded in scaring away customers.
A year ago, Forchion thought he was in a great place. The Joint was not only a popular restaurant, provocatively located directly across the street from City Hall and down the block from the U.S. District Courthouse in the heart of Trenton, but the Liberty Bell Temple next door also served as a public sanctuary where ganja smokers could toke in peace, away from the crime-ridden streets. Forchion received a lot of publicity with features in the Wall Street Journal and Vice, and he wrote a regular column in the Trentonian newspaper.
But the police did not take kindly to Forchion’s high-profile activities. Early in the year they began enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew on the restaurant, coming in and telling everyone to leave, even though the restaurant is located in a business district and the curfew rules did not apply. During the day, the police would routinely park their patrol cars out front with their flashing lights on and this put a major chill on the restaurant’s business. Much of the clientele was government employees, and they became afraid of being seen in the restaurant.
In March, Forchion filed a lawsuit, arguing that that the police were interfering with the lawful right to assemble and freedom of religion. The police responded by opening an investigation into drug dealing and, on April 27, raided the temple. They seized a sophisticated audiovisual setup, including 28 cameras and computers which were set up to film a reality TV show, as well as hard drives containing all of Forchion’s writings going back years. The police also claimed to find $19,000 worth of marijuana.
In the ultimate insult, the police seized and then crushed the NJ Weedman’s iconic Weedmobile, a custom van painted with murals celebrating ganja that Forchion had driven cross-country multiple times.