- TRENTON — In February, pro-marijuana activist Ed Forchion's only had minor issues with the city of Trenton, which amounted to a disagreement over people congregating at night outside of his restaurant, which opened the prior summer to fanfare.
But in the eight months that have followed, Forchion's troubles have mushroomed into a lawsuit against the city, a felony drug case against Forchion, and what seems like weekly court dates and the colorful social media postings about them.
And he gets semi-regular visits from Trenton police officers, especially late at night, when the city contends he should be closed.
Fresh from his latest appearance in criminal court last week, and facing another in a few days, Forchion reflected on 2016.
"It's turned kind of into a disaster," he said Wednesday.
He says the numerous citations and court appearances have taken a financial strain on his businesses on East State Street, NJ Weedman's Joint and the accompanying Liberty Bell Sanctuary - which he's called a "cannabis church" and "weed temple."
"The damage has already been done," Forchion said.
His issues with the city starting in February mainly revolve around the Joint staying open after 11 p.m., which police say is in defiance of a city ordinance.
Weedman claims religious freedom, since the attached weed temple turns his place into a into bonafide church.
The city started issuing Forchion citations for breaking the ordinance and, in turn, Forchion sued the city in March.
Trenton police have said they received numerous complaints from residents about noise and other issues at the restaurant.
And police and the county prosecutor's office apparently kept investigating, and that culminated in an April raid and Forchion's arrest on marijuana distribution counts.
For a while, Forchion publicly battled the criminal case, loudly. In May, he held up an expletive-laden sign and picked a public confrontation with city police.
In late September, the city revoked Forchion's business license, and Forchion's attorney won an appeal and he had his license returned days later.
Weeks after that, Forchion turned his attention to the criminal case again, and outed a man on social media he believes is the confidential informant who worked with police in their undercover investigation of him.
For Forchion, the past eight months have been more than exhausting – it's taken a toll on his livelihood, he says.
"In the summer of 2015 I was looking at this place as a gold mine," he said. "I had my little niche."
"People don't come here anymore. It's like a desert now," he added.
Forchion explained that for many of his past customers, the police attention has turned his restaurant into a dangerous place for them.
And the lack of customers coupled with the cost of legal fees has left him in a difficult place, he said. He was just barely able to pay rent on the place last month and he's received two eviction notices this month.
But for the adamant marijuana advocate – who once traveled cross-country in a "Weedmobile" – giving up is not an option.
Forchion is looking ahead to the upcoming appearances and oral arguments on Nov. 7.
One thing that keeps him going, he said, is the idea of facing the police informant in court.
"He should have to testify. My right to face my accuser supersedes his desire to remain anonymous," Forchion said.