October 26, 2012. New Jersey. The two unconnected criminal cases against medical marijuana activists ended in different degrees of victory – one acquittal and one mistrial. But that appeared to only anger law enforcement officials because the cause of both victories was the same. Supporters of medical marijuana had distributed hundreds of Fully Informed Jury Association brochures outside each courthouse. It was one of those individuals passing out FIJA fliers that was arrested.
NJ Weedman produced this graphic to celebrate his Not Guilty verdict. Image courtesy of NJWeedman.com.
California medical marijuana advocate Jason Andrews doesn’t just speak out on behalf of medicinal cannabis. He is part of a semi-secret group he refers to as a ‘cooperative’. Like farmers who loosely combine their operations to benefit from the economies of scale, many medical marijuana patients can’t afford to fill their prescriptions and are forced to rely on volunteers and donations, mainly through these unregulated co-ops.
Andrews admits that on October 12, 2010, he was driving with one pound of marijuana and $6,220 in cash. As he explained to JG Vibes and IntelHub, “The Collective I left that night was a dispensary store front. They offered medical marijuana to patients and I have a small collective delivery service that I provide free medication to the terminally ill.”
“When we have extra Medicine we provided it to this collective store front, who took it on consignment, then took donations from their other patients for the Medicine,” Jason explains, “When they had gotten rid of it they would call me and reimburse us for it. This Collective was being watched as well as a few others in Lake Forest California by the Orange County Sheriffs because they had been fighting the City and won a recent appeal.”
Lone juror holds-out for mistrial
Unlike most medical marijuana criminal cases that are executed by federal agents, Jason Andrews was arrested on California state charges for ‘sales and trafficking of marijuana’. Authorities insisted they caught him operating outside the legal limits of state-sanctioned medical marijuana.
It was never disclosed where ‘Juror 101’, as he’s being called, received his jury nullification education from. But according to the above report, the juror argued vehemently with fellow jurors that the defendant may be guilty of the letter of the law. But as jurors, it was within their power to acquit Andrews if they believe the law is unjust. Unable to win the full jury over to his side, Juror 101 held his ground until a mistrial was declared.
When the juror went home from the courthouse, he blogged about his battle writing, “Always do your jury duty, you might have a chance to save a fellow citizen from a faulty charge and a lazy, zombie jury…I did!! ayayayayayyayeeeeeee!” Under California law, the charges aren’t automatically dismissed. Instead, authorities have three attempts at trial. Jason Andrews faces his second trial for the same arrest in two days on October 28.
Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion
Ed Forchion, known as NJ Weedman, is famous for his continuous support of issues such as marijuana legalization. According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, ‘A perennial political candidate, Forchion has run for multiple offices at once. He’s mooned Gov. Jim McGreevey and mailed a joint to Gov. Christie.’
The outlet also describes how Ed Forchion has led a successful campaign of constantly out-smarting authorities in their crusade to silence the outspoken advocate. NJ Weedman, as his supporters affectionately call him, successfully overturned his parole violation sentence in federal court and successfully fought a law requiring convicted criminals to deposit a DNA sample in state bio-banks.
On April 1, 2010, Forchion was arrested while driving around in a rental car with one pound of marijuana. While Forchion had a California medical marijuana permit, the credential doesn’t entitle him to possess cannabis in New Jersey. Instead of charging him with possession, police went one step further and charged NJ Weedman with dealing.
“They had zero evidence that I was distributing, other than the fact that I had a pound,” the Inquirer quotes him saying, “Well, I do smoke a lot. And I was visiting for a while.” Forchion had recently returned to New Jersey from California where he had a successful medical marijuana dispensary on LA’s Hollywood Blvd, even appearing on the show TMZ.
Not Guilty by jury nullification
Unlike Jason Andrews, who is beginning his second trial for the same medical marijuana charge because only one juror held-out and voted not guilty, NJ Weedman is free and absolved. During his trial, supporters had repeatedly flocked to the courthouse and distributed hundreds of Fully Informed Jury Association brochures, explaining the power of jury nullification.
Inside the courthouse, Forchion attempted to argue his ‘jury nullification’ defense before the jury. But the judge repeatedly warned him that he was not allowed to mention it, going so far as to threaten him with a contempt of court charge if he continued. Outside the courthouse, a group of FIJA activists continued to hand out Fully Informed Jury Association fliers. In the end, Forchion was acquitted when the 12 jurors unanimously ruled not guilty, not because he hadn’t committed the crime, but because they felt the law was illegitimate.
Fernando Antonio Salguero arrested
Just as on other days of the NJ Weedman’s marijuana trial, Fernando Antonio Salguero and 5 others were stationed outside the courthouse handing out FIJA brochures. It’s a 20 year-old tactic FIJA supporters use to target potential jurors as they enter and leave courthouses. Usually, FIJA supporters merely target any and all passers-by. But in some instances, like in Ed Forchion’s trial, activists target that specific trial and courthouse, hoping to get a FIJA flier into the hands of one or more of the case’s jurors.
On the afternoon before closing arguments in Forchion’s trial, County Sheriffs deputies arrived at the courthouse, arresting Salguero and forcing the other FIJA activists to disperse and immediately cease handing out their fliers. As detailed by Intel Hub, Salguero explained, “They accused us of jury tampering. We were not targeting jurors. We were giving out pamphlets to everyone, the same way we have done a few times over the past two weeks, without incident.”
Those present during the arrest described how the officers took names and checked for outstanding warrants. Salguero, who is a Montgomery County firefighter, a married father of two and with no criminal record, was arrested for a 12 year-old traffic violation he swears is paid and must be a mistake. He was released hours later on $250 bond, where he explained his ordeal, “I was kidnapped and my friends had to pay a ransom for my release.”
In the end, his efforts paid off. Ed, NJ Weedman, Forchion was acquitted by a jury using their power of jury nullification. It’s no stretch to believe that Fernando Antonio Salguero and his friends’ distribution of FIJA brochures outside that courthouse earlier in the day and in the days prior were one hundred percent responsible for Ed Forchion’s victory. With any luck, Salguero will be victorious in his defense as well. Fortunately, while officers threatened the activists with arrest for jury tampering, Salguero was only charged with failure to pay the outstanding traffic ticket.
For more information on jury nullification, visit FIJA.org.
For more information on NJ Weedman, visit NJWeedman.com.
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