Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime 1/3/03

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A federal judge in Camden, NJ, has ordered the state to show why it is holding Ed Forchion, widely known as the "NJ Weedman," in prison instead of releasing him to complete his parole. Forchion was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing 25 pounds of marijuana. He served more than 16 months behind bars before being paroled earlier this year. New Jersey parole officials jailed him again in August for violating his parole. His crime? Advocating the reform of the marijuana laws. The state was particularly irked that Forchion had the nerve to film several public service announcements propounding his views. Those commercials were never aired.

Forchion appeared before a three-judge Intensive Supervision Program (parole) panel in early December to seek his reinstatement as a parolee, but that panel adjourned without ruling or setting a date for a new hearing.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Joseph Irenas scheduled a January 21 hearing on Forchion's writ of habeas corpus, ordering the state of New Jersey to show cause for imprisoning him. Irenas told the court Forchion probably would not have been returned to prison had he not spoken out about the drug laws.

Forchion, who is a Rastafarian, has led a quixotic crusade to reform the marijuana laws. He has run thrice for Congress, he allegedly smoked marijuana on the floor of the state Assembly in an act of civil disobedience, and he once sought political asylum in Canada from the marijuana charges that led to his current troubles. But now, with New Jersey parole authorities throwing him in prison because of his political beliefs, he is what Amnesty International would call a "prisoner of conscience," incarcerated not for drug activity but for exercising his constitutionally protected freedom of political speech.

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Issue #270, 1/3/03 Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences | Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid 270/californiabudget Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures | Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill | Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic? | Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests | Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties | Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators | Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar

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