Here’s some great news: It’s getting harder and harder for hapless, overwhelmed prosecutors to get a marijuana conviction in the United States — even when the amount in question is a pound, and the charges are distribution, not simple possession.
|Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion was found not guilty of marijuana distribution by a jury of his peers on Thursday
Such became obvious Thursday afternoon in a Mount Holly, New Jersey, courtroom, when a jury found Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion not guilty in the cannabis activist’s marijuana distribution case, reports Danielle Camilli of PhillyBurbs.com
The decision came after Forchion was almost held in contempt of court Thursday morning as he delivered his closing argument. NJWeedman tried to introduce his jury nullification argument into the closing, but Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who had already barred any discussion of it, quickly stopped him.
“If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you,” the judge told Forchion, who was wearing a “Marijuana… It’s OK” t-shirt. “You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.”
Jury nullification allows jurors to disregard the law they were ordered to follow in considering the case and to acquit a defendant — regardless of the evidence — in effect nullifying the law.
Forchion refused, during the brief recess, to talk to his court-appointed attorney, but when Judge Delehey and the jury returned, he abandoned his jury nullification pitch.
Instead, he told the jury of his plight as an authorized medical marijuana patient in California who smuggled a pound of cannabis to New Jersey in April 2010. Forchion said the weed was for his own medicinal use.
“I don’t use it the way the state says,” Forchion told the jury. “To me, it’s medicine; it’s food.”
He told the jury that he’d been eating pot brownies throughout the trial. “I feel I’m the victim of a flawed law,” he said.
The state claimed that because a pound of marijuana was involved, Forchion intended to distribute it. Perhaps sensing the tide turning against him, Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano tried to convince the jury that the case was not a “political referendum” on medical marijuana or cannabis legalization.
“It is not a litmus test on the War On Drugs,” Luciano claimed.
The assistant prosecutor also claimed that “numbers and common sense” should result in a guilty verdict, claiming that Forchion had enough weed on him when he was stopped by police in Mount Holly on April 1, 2010, to smoke “for months.”
Luciano claimed Forchion would have to smoke two to three joints an hour nonstop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get through the pound of marijuana in six months. But NJWeedman disputed the prosecutor’s math, saying it didn’t accurately portray how he uses cannabis.
“He had more than any person could smoke on their own,” Luciano claimed, reminding the jury that they didn’t have to find he sold any pot to convict him; sharing also constitutes “distribution” under the law.
“He was going to distribute this for profit,” Luciano claimed. “He was going to distribute it because that’s what he believes, that’s his drug, that’s his food and that’s his plant.”
Forchion was convicted of simple possession earlier this year, but the jury hung on the more serious distribution charge. That led to this week’s trial.