Ed Forchion, widely known as the New Jersey Weedman, can act as his own lawyer at his drug trial in April, a state Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday. But Forchion cannot put the state's marijuana laws on trial.
Judge Charles Delehey said the Weedman has a constitutional right to represent himself when he is put on trial on charges he had a pound of pot in his car during a traffic stop in 2010. But the judge won't allow Weedman to argue to the jury that marijuana should be decriminalized. Determining whether the state law is valid is "not the jury's function," the judge said.
Delehey's ruling reverses a decision he issued in October. At that time, Forchion insisted he had the right to challenge "New Jersey's goofy marijuana laws" in court and would not back down. Delehey appointed a public defender to handle Forchion's defense.
But during Tuesday's reconsideration hearing, Forchion reluctantly agreed to go along with the judge's instructions. "I'm going to abide by your rules," he told the judge after much bickering and long pauses after questions.
When the judge tried to explain his reasons, Forchion blurted out: "I totally disagree." He said he has a right to tell the jury "the truth" about the hypocricy in the marijuana laws and let "we the people" decide.
"You leave me no alternative," the judge barked, warning he would not permit "a disorderly trial."
Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Michael Luciano said he does not trust Forchion to behave and warned the trial might have to be redone if Forchion "should run afoul" of the judge's orders. Forchion has been "clear about making this a social argument rather just a criminal trial," he said.
But Delehy said he would take Forchion at his word, and agreed to allow assistant public defender Don Ackerman to help him at trial. Delehey warned that if Forchion steps out of line, he will instruct the jury to disregard Forchion's comments and will inform them that Forchion violated an agreement he made in court.
Afterwards, Forchion said he was pleased to be his own lawyer at trial. "I'm disappointed the judge won't let me openly argue for jury nullification (of the law) but there's a subtle way to do that," he said.
Read our full story about his upcoming trial and the recent raid on his pot farm and marijuana dispensary in L.A. here: http://bit.ly/xhoj2Q