CANNABIS CULTURE – NJWeedman (Aka Ed Forchion) has filed a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey for legalizing regulated cannabis on the grounds that new laws demand a colonialized system of selective prosecution.
“What’s going on right now is the Columbusization of the marijuana industry. In urban communities, we have not had shortages of marijuana in decades. You get these corporations coming in here saying they founded the cannabis industry, and they are setting up in these urban communities. Right on top of us! They are planning on setting up these Walmarts of weed right in our communities.”
Forchion is passionate when he speaks about the future he wants to see for New Jersey neighborhoods, ravaged by the drug war.
He doesn’t mind the “Walmarts of weed” setting up shop.
Instead, Forchion wants the average citizen to be able to open a bodega in their neighborhood as well—and he argues that the new laws will make it impossible for this to happen.
At present, there are not yet any official new laws regarding marijuana in New Jersey. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly has managed to muster enough votes to pass legislation. Governor Phil Murphy ran his 2017 campaign on a promise to legalize marijuana, but the legislative stalemate led lawmakers to put the question to voters.
Almost three million New Jersey citizens voted “yes” on the ballot, signaling it’s time to get to work on coming to an agreement. However, lawmakers continue to disagree on how to move forward.
Lipstick on Pigs
Some argue the current proposed legislation doesn’t do enough to address the issue of social justice in the state.
Senator Ronald Rice accused his fellow lawmakers of putting profit before community, and legalization ahead of decriminalization, in a scathing opinion piece the New Jersey Globe published on November 14th.
“They saw marijuana as a cash cow that could be milked as a source of income for our state and a windfall profit for investors. […] Like putting lipstick on a pig, the legalization legislation was disguised as a path to social justice and promoted as a way to level the playing field and bring equity and equality among our people.”
Rice’s sentiments are at the heart of Forchion’s lawsuit, but the issue of social justice is now completely separate from the issue of marijuana legalization.
According to David Mangone, Director of Policy for a Washington DC cannabis industry lobbying firm called The Liason Group, “That’s a valid concern. Minorities are not receiving equitable opportunities after years and years of institutional discrimination. However, it’s not related to the actual bill.”
Mangone pointed out the challenge for Forchion is, “implementing law appears to be neutral. [There is] nothing in the text that relates to racial preference one way or another.”
He went on to note that Forchion’s arguments may fit into the equation better, “once the licensing process actually starts. If licensing was awarded in a discriminatory way, he would have a compelling case.”
The state will put its Cannabis Regulatory Commission in charge of implementing and enforcing the laws after they are hashed out, with former New Jersey ACLU attorney Diana Houenou heading it up.
However, the expense of compliance will inherently add a deeply discriminatory element to the process, squeezing out the smaller black market entrepreneurs that have been holding up the cannabis industry and ensuring a market exists today. “No one can afford to comply with regulations,” observed Forchion.
For now, he will “keep selling weed like I’m white,” from NJWeedman’s Joint. His cafe that sits directly across the street from City Hall, and he dares the police to arrest him.
“If they arrest me tomorrow, I’m on the front page of the papers and mostly everyone agrees with me. Then this’ll get the national attention it deserves. [ … ] Bring it on, government. #NJcantget12”