Before New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana last year, black market traders were secretly selling weed – but a businessman right across from City Hall in the state’s capital has openly challenged the law.
Edward Forchion, known as NJ Weedman, is open about his underground weed business. He opened a store on E State Street in Trenton, selling everything from flowers to cannabis concentrates to groceries. NJWeedman’s Joint is one of the few places to oppose the government rollout as the state is months away from actually opening its marijuana market.
“I say I’m like the People’s Master now … the Robinhood Reefer,” Forchion said.
The 56-year-old has been in the marijuana business for years. He was first arrested in 1997. Since then, Forchion has been arrested and charged with drugs on multiple occasions. Now that marijuana is legal, his previous beliefs have only reinforced his belief in challenging the new regulatory system.
When asked whether he dares the police to arrest him, Forchion says he dares not police officers, but politicians. “I think the reason I am not being arrested is because of my success so far,” he said.
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Under the new guidelines released last month by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, police are no longer allowed to detain or arrest people for possessing or distributing small amounts of marijuana. Being under the influence of marijuana or possessing related paraphernalia is no longer a crime for people 21 and older.
The new Cannabis Regulatory Commission has to set different rules and issue licenses for businesses like Forchion to operate legally. The licenses are strictly limited.
“I said there should be thousands of me across the state. Instead, the governor plans to license 37 places, large companies, to grow marijuana and let everyone else buy from them,” Forchion said.
The number of licenses for cultivators is limited to two years. The Senate didn’t push for limits, but the Assembly wanted the limits.
Also under the bill signed by Governor Phil Murphy last month, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission can impose an excise tax based on the cost per ounce of cannabis. Seventy percent of the proceeds will go to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were up to three times as likely to be exposed to marijuana as white residents.
Forchion says he will continue to shop with suppliers he selects and sell on his own term unless the government includes sellers like him in the legal market.
“You don’t sign up and say ‘no negros need to apply’. You don’t. But you need 2 million for this. You need this. You have to go in front of this board. You have to. These are all of these barriers to getting those ones prevent those they don’t want, “he added.
“If they don’t lock us in, we’ll still exist. I won’t go, ‘well, legalization is here. The whites are allowed to sell weeds now. I think I’ll quit.’ That will never happen. “
At the moment, sales remain on the black market – and Forchion is making a lot of money. His business has an average of 200 customers a day and even more on weekends.