HISTORIC RELIGIOUS RIGHTS/MARIJUANA CASE?

The latest news about this case can be found at the bottom of page!
CLICK HERE:
USA Vs FORCHION04-949-m

(AUGUST 2, 2000 LIBERTY BELL)

Several times in the last few years I've gone to the Liberty Bell to raise awareness of the Marijuana Legalization debate and to present a legal case to fight. The Federal Government has declined to prosecute me for this blatent act of civil disobedience. So now 12/1/2003 I'm now announcing that I will be doing it once a month now.

 


MONTHLY DEMONSTRATION OF MARIJUANA'S LEGALITY
ON FEDERAL PROPERTY


Every 3rd Saturday "NJWEEDMAN" and PAT DUFF" will demonstrate

the legality of using marijuana on Federal grounds at the LIBERTY BELL!

There are many people out there now in this post-911era who claim to be “FREEDOM FIGHTERS” but none fight for freedom more than the:

NJWEEDMAN Super-hero to the POTHEADS!

MUST SEE

  PRESS RELEASE AND STATEMENT OF INTENTION FOR:

1st MONTHLY SMOKE-OUT-(DEC 20th, 2003)

 

 

MUST SEE:

2004 Election Ad's

 

 

 

       

       
MUST SEE:
        

LIBERTY BELL SMOKEOUT VIDEO

 

WILLIAM PENN --- EDWARD FORCHION
Re-incarnation?

Could Bill and Weedman be the same soul!

 

 

Religious use of Marijuana at the Liberty Bell is legal!

 

 

In 1993 the U.S. Congress passed the (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(a)) Religious Freedom and Restoration Act which allows for the religious use of marijuana on federal grounds; during the course of a religious ceremony.

On Dec. 20th, 2003 local provocateurs, Pat Duff and NJWEEDMAN, demonstrated this fact by smoking at the LIBERTY BELL. Although at the time they were issued summons no court date was immediately set, prompting these two to embark on a monthly demonstration.

 They have now decided to turn Independence Park into Philly Peace Park. Come join these two FREEDOM FIGHTERS in a “joint” demonstration and act of civil dis-obedience. Make a statement to end the “WAR on DRUGS”. Every 3rd Saturday of each month!

UPDATE - A COURT DATE HAS BEEN SET FOR SEPTEMBER 29th, 2004!

JUDGE ARNOLD C. RAPPORT Courtroom 5C, fifth Floor,U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

_______________

_____________


FIGHT THE POWER
(VIDEO CLIP)

 

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

DOWNLOAD AND PASS OUT THESE FLYER'!

DOWNLOAD LIBERTY BELL FLYER ( SIDE 1) HERE:
 ( FLYER FRONT)

DOWNLOAD LIBERTY BELL FLYER ( SIDE 2) HERE:
 ( FLYER BACK)

 

 




 

        EDWARD FORCHION

           

"Freedom of Religion means all Religions"; that would include me and my faith. Unfortunately especially in New Jersey Superior Court Family division my Religious Rights are constantly ignored.

This demonstration is designed to legally put all Governmental agencies on notice that Freedom of Religion also applies to non-Christian African based faiths.  I had my visitation rights taken from me for espousing my Religious beliefs; I've been imprisoned, railroaded into prison without the rights to a fair trial and imprisoned again for complaining about. My hope is Judge Rapoport will uphold the Constitutional Right of”FREEDOM of RELIGION" and not the Governments Drug Policy of War.   
     - 2003          

MARCUS GARVEY


"
If the whiteman has his image of a "WHITE GOD”, let him worship his "GOD" as he desires. If the yellow man’s”GOD" is of his own race let him worship his "GOD" as he sees fit. We as Negroes have found a new ideal.

 

Whilst our "GOD" has no color, yet it is human to see everything through your own spectacles, and since the white people have seen their "GOD" through white spectacles, we only now have started our (late through it maybe) to see our "GOD" thought our own spectacles. The "GOD" of ISSAAC and the "GOD" of Jacob let HIM exist for the race that believes in the "GOD" of ISAAC and the "GOD" of Ethiopia, the everlasting "GOD" - GOD the father, God the Son and GOD the HOLY GHOST the ONE GOD of all ages. That is the "GOD" in whom we believe, but we shall worship HIM through the spectacles of Ethiopia. - 1925



 

 

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Religion May Be Defense to Marijuana Possession

IN THE COURTS

March 1996

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on February 2 that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Rastafarian defendants should be allowed to show that they use marijuana for bona fide religious reasons in their defense against charges of possession of marijuana (U.S. v. Bauer,Meeks,Triber, No. 94-30073, 96 C.D.O.S. 756, 1996WL42240 (9th Cir. 1996);(OPINION); Reynolds Holding, "Rastafarian Pot Could Be Legal," San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 1996, p. A14; "Marijuana For Religious Reasons," Washington Post, February 5, 1996, p. A10; Associated Press, "Court: Rastafarians Can Hold Marijuana," Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1996, p. 9).

Acting on two tips, police initiated an investigation of marijuana trafficking from Mexico to Billings, Montana. As a result of the investigation, 26 people were indicted in November 1992 on a number of charges, including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, money laundering, use of firearms in relation to drug trafficking, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Three of the defendants, Calvin Treiber, Dawn Meeks, and Lexi Bauer, appealed on the grounds that they possessed the marijuana in the course of practicing their religion, Rastafarianism. The Court of Appeals found that Rastafarianism is a recognized religion that considers marijuana a sacrament.

In 1993, Meeks had requested the district court to provide funds for expert testimony on the use of marijuana in Rastafarianism. The district court denied that motion and granted a government motion to prevent any religious defense to the charges. The defendants' trial started on October 3, 1993. On November 17, 1993, the defendants notified the court that President Clinton had signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on November 16, 1993. The Act declares that "governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification," i.e. government interest. Further, the Act allows for persons who find that a law does "substantially burden" their free exercise of religion to present evidence of such at trial (P.L. 103-141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1). The district court refused to reconsider its ruling on the government's motion.

Post-conviction, the defendants argued that laws regulating marijuana greatly interfere with the ability of Rastafarians to practice their religion. The district court ruled that "the government has an overriding interest in regulating marijuana." The court quoted a 1967 Fifth Circuit decision: "It would be difficult to imagine the harm which would result if the criminal statutes against marihuana were nullified as to those who claim the right to possess and traffick in this drug for religious purposes. For all practical purposes the anti-marihuana laws would be meaningless, and enforcement impossible" (Leary v. U.S., 383 F.2d 851 (5th Cir. 1967), rev'd on other grounds, 395 U.S. 6 (1969)).

The Court of Appeals three judge panel was unanimous that the defendants should have been allowed to present evidence of their religious use of marijuana at trial. Judge John T. Noonan, Jr., writing for the court, found that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government would be required to show that the burdens on the defendants' religion were in the course of furthering the government's interest and that the laws were the "least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest." While the defendants may use the religious argument in their defense of simple possession charges, Noonan wrote that the same argument cannot be applied to other charges of conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and money laundering. "Nothing before us suggests that Rastafarianism would require this conduct," he wrote.

Noonan ordered that the defendants be retried on the simple possession charges. At such trial, Noonan wrote, the government can challenge whether the defendants are Rastafarians. "It is not enough in order to enjoy the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to claim the name of a religion as a protective cloak," Noonan wrote. "Neither the government nor the court has to accept the defendants' mere say-so." (The Government chose not to re-try, or appeal this case)

The defendants appealed on a number of other grounds, including inappropriate peremptory challenges to the jury by the prosecution, misleading jury instructions, and selective prosecution. The Court of Appeals found no grounds for any of these arguments.

 

 

 

THE SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER

Rastafarians hit it big in pot fight’

June 3, 2002

BY DAVID KIEFER
Of The Examiner Staff


  

It's illegal to smoke ganja in Jamaica. At the Presidio, it's a different story. After all, it's freedom of religion -- if you're a Rastafarian, and have the dreadlocks to prove it.

Yep, those days of hiding that certain smell from your landlord are over. Rastafarians can now smoke out in the great outdoors as long as they keep it on federal land -- wink, wink -- and they have Benny Toves Guerrero to thank for the action.

Guerrero was arrested at the Guam airport for marijuana possession, but his appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended favorably Tuesday.

The court ruled that Congress had the power to make religious exemptions to existing laws. The result: A loophole allowing the smoking of weed -- a spiritual offering in the Rastafarian religion -- on federal land.

Around the Rastafarian community Wednesday, the court ruling was being savored like a long, slow toke.

"That's what I was telling you this morning," said a friend trying to help Jamaica native Glendon Codling, who was selling necklaces from a table on Market and Fifth streets Wednesday, fully realize the effect of the decision. "Can I be a Rasta?"

Unfortunately, Codling's Caucasian buddy might not pass muster. In other words, don't expect an influx of new converts.

"A Rasta comes with the hair," said Newton Gordon, Jamaica's honorary consul to San Francisco. "You don't see a Rasta with a nice crew cut."

But they do have pot. It's an integral part of the Rasta religion, and now, they don't have to hide it anymore. They can go to Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, Point Reyes, even the Farallons, and light a doobie.

"In Jamaica, it's a lot like food," Codling said. "It's like relaxation. But in Jamaica you get in big, big trouble."

You mean in the home of Bob Marley it is illegal to smoke pot? Codling was asked.

"Yes," he said, musing about the idea of being able to light one up near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Gordon explained that the law was implemented as a means to avoid a strong dependence on Colombian drug lords.

"But everybody looks the other way," Gordon said. "In Jamaica, no one's going to arrest you for smoking pot."

No one will here either, just watch where you're standin
____________________________________________________________________________

FOR MORE DETAILS ON NJWEEDMAN's CLAIM OF THE LEGALITY OF MARIJUANA USE ON FEDERAL PROPERTY SEE: "HE'S BACK"

 

 

 

                        THE LIBERTY BELL IS ON FEDERAL PROPERTY

On
Dec. 20th, 2003
 we hold the first of our "It's legal at the bell" demonstration.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

12/24/2003

 

Marijuana activist uses act of defiance to launch campaign

Newly off probation, Ed Forchion of Browns Mills announced a bid for the U.S. House, then lit up.

By Sam Wood,Inquirer Staff Writer

Call it a joint announcement.

A South Jersey advocate for the liberalization of marijuana laws declared his candidacy for the U.S. House at Independence National Historical Park by - how else? - lighting up a marijuana cigarette.

Not that he got a chance to smoke it.

After just a few tokes Saturday afternoon, a phalanx of 17 park rangers surrounded Ed Forchion, also known as NJ Weedman.

The rangers confiscated the candidate's joint, and Forchion, 44, was issued a $150 ticket for possession of a controlled substance.

Minutes before, while standing between Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion, Forchion said he intended to run as the U.S. Marijuana Party's candidate for the seat held by Republican Jim Saxton in New Jersey's Third Congressional District.

The district extends across Burlington and Ocean Counties and includes a few neighborhoods in Camden County.

Also cited shortly after 4:20 p.m. was Pat Duff, 27, who said he intended to run as the Marijuana Party's candidate for Philadelphia City Council in 2007. The self-described "renegade car salesman" said he would run on a platform encouraging the opening of cannabis cafes across the city.

About 50 supporters, many with video cameras and shivering against the wind, had gathered to watch Forchion and Duff ceremoniously light up.

The time and setting had been chosen with Karl Rove-ian precision. "Four-20" is stoner slang for smoking marijuana. The park had the benefit of being federal property, outside the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Police Department.

"We're peaceful, patriotic potheads," the soft-spoken Forchion said. "We had meant to do this on Dec. 6, but it snowed and ruined what we'd thought was going to be a big turnout."

On Dec. 3, Forchion completed 20 months of probation in Camden County for pleading guilty to possessing five pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

"I'm happy," he said of putting probation behind him, "I can run for office again."

Forchion, of Browns Mills, has run for Burlington County freeholder and for the First District seat in the U.S. House on the Legalize Marijuana ticket.

A Rastafarian, Forchion has said he smoked marijuana for religious reasons, to relieve back pain, and to help him deal with chronic depression. The former cross-country truck driver has been an advocate of legalizing marijuana since the mid-1990s.

His high jinks have been celebrated in what is left of the counterculture. Among his stunts: lighting up in the New Jersey Assembly while wearing a black-and-white-striped prisoner's costume.

Saturday's announcement was intended to make a more sober point, he said, adding that he intended to challenge the rangers' citations in court.

"This is all about a First Amendment issue," Forchion said. "Freedom of religion allows for the religious use of marijuana on federal property. I'm just exercising that right." 
______________________________________________________________________________


Since this arrest nothing has happened, the summonses have disappeared if you don’t believe us just call the U.S. District Court Clerk’s office in Philadelphia (1-215-597-7077) and ask them what is the status of summons number:P -028826 and P-xxxxxx. Written by Park Police Officer Raflin badge # 99..           .


                                    

 

SEE VIDEO’s of

LIBERTY BELL DEMONSTRATIONS

 

 

liberty bell fuck u

 

DEC. 20th, 2003

"NJweedman" gives the cops the finger and gets searched while Pat doesn't.

___________

READ MORE HERE: SMOKE-OUT

NO VIDEO AVAILABLE

Jan. 17, 2004

Feb. 20, 2004

There is no VIDEO of this protest.

But here is video of Pat explaining our demonstrations.

MARCH 20th, 2004

"NJweedman gets searched again, while Pat doesn't. Is this an example of racism?

___________

This month was the best protest yet, take a look at this: MARCH/DEMONSTRATION



April 17th, 2004

finally the cops search both "Pat and NJweedman

May 15, 2004

Most successful demonstration yet!! No-one was ticketed, we "prayed", smoked and had a picnic.

 

June 19, 2004

 

July 17, 2004

This demonstration no-one was arrested but the Federal Park Police photographed us all. (watch this video) Or just read about it here: (TEXT ACCOUNT)

 

FINALLY WE HAVE A COURT DATE!

(July 21st, 2004 )
 
U.S. Federal Courthouse Philadelphia)

On Wednesday 7/21/2004 we had our first court appearance before  Federal Judge Rapoport about our use of marijuana on Federal Property. Unfortunately, our Attorney Michael Coard wasn't able to make it because he is involved in a criminal trial. The case has been postponed to September 29th, 2004 before JUDGE ARNOLD C. RAPPORT Courtroom 5C, fifth Floor, U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106. Despite this, we will continue to use our sacrament every 3rd Sat of each month and after each court appearance for this case we will also hold a press conference/religious ceremony at the Bell where we will again use of "SACRAMENT" as is "LEGAL"

 

 


MONTHLY DEMONSTRATION

RAINED OUT AUGUST
Hurricane XXXX

RAINED OUT SEPTEMBER
Hurricane XXXXX

COURT HEARING
 SEPTWEMBER 29th, 2004

After Court we will again hold a peaceful ceremony where we will pray for peace and an end to the drug war.

OCT 16th, 2004
"no video"
NOODLEMAN meets NJWEEDMAN
at the Liberty Bell for a little (LEGAL)
religious Smoke

 

Please read about this date here:
XXXX


NOV 20th, 2004

On Nov. 12th, 2004" Judge Rapoport sentenced NJWEEDMAN - he illegally orders NJWEEDMAN not to enter Independence Park again or he will be jailed. This is another "unconstitutional" attempt at stopping NJWEEDMAN from proselytizing about his faith and beliefs!


Is this Independence Park or Tinaniman Square?

On 11/12/04 - NJWEEDMAN say's, "I'll will enter the park and will talk about my faith!"

Will he be jailed?

11/20/04: No-one notice's njweedman slipping into the park and holding a quick prayer service and exiting before the Park Police can pounce! This was a small victory for NJWEEDMAN in his larger war against the Government's Drug Policies which makes his religion illegal to practice in America just as William Penn’s was in England! How can our nations defense's against "TERRORIST" be adequate when a "known pothead" can announce his intentions and get away without even being noticed?

DECEMBER 18th, 2004
(
3:00 -4:20pm)

Due to the conditions of "probation" NJWEEDMAN will not enter the park. He hopes others will continue to show up at Independence Park, and 'smoke the sacred herb'. "I don't want anyone arrested; try to do it without attracting the attention of the park police. NJWEEDMAN say's, “I want others to continue my example and use the herb in the park". If I'm ever jailed I hope others will show up here every 3rd Saturday of the month and demand my "FREEDOM"".


UNTIL THIS CONVICTION IS OVERTURNED
  I will stand across the street from the Park
  on the steps of KYW, TV-3, and WYSP FM-94.1
with a sign:


SEE VIDEO OF: DEC. 18th, 2004 here!

2005/Happy New Year

Jan 15
(
3-4:20pm)

It is hoped that "spiritual potheads" will once again show up and "pray" for the end of the Governments religious persecution of us thru the "DRUG LAWS" and to speak-out against the War in Iraq. (SEE JAN05)

 


February 19, 2005
(
3-4:20pm)

It may be real cold outside but the Governments treatment of us is "COLD", please show up and speak out against the Government persecution of "SPIRITUAL HERB USERS" and the War in Iraq. (SEE FEB05)

 


March 19, 2005
(
3-4:20pm)
The weather should be getting better, people should be getting real tired of the PERSECUTION of us and use these monthly demonstrations to voice their opposition to Government persecution of us for our "religious choice". Come speak out against the "WAR in
IRAQ" and the war on us!
(SEE MARCH05)


SPECIAL EVENT : WEDNESDAY APRIL 20th, 2005

"420"

On this most high of "POTHEAD HOLIDAYS" it is hoped by NJWEEDMAN that spiritual potheads from all over the world will converge on "independence mall" in Philadelphia and "pray" for the end of the Government persecution of herb users. If he's not in jail, NJWEEDMAN still will not be able to enter the park but will stand just outside of the parks jurisdiction on the corner of 5th and market. CBS-TV3 and radio station kyw1060am and 94.1 fm are located in this building maybe they will cover the event! At 430pm NJWEEDMAN will address the crowd, give a speech and hold a press conference explaining the plight of the "herb users" in America due to Government persecution! (SEE 42005)


April 23, 2005

Our hope is many will show for the 420 event, but for those who can't make it on that date the monthly demonstration will continue. (SEE APRIL05)

 

 

 

 

On September 29th, 2004

WEEDMAN and DUFF appear before Judge Rapoport. Judge Rapoport actually compliments NJWEEDMAN by telling him he missed his calling: “you should have been a lawyer”. 
(READ TRANSCRIPT OF SEPT 29th, 2004 here)


NJWEEDMAN FILES:

(MOTION TO DIS-MISS)

 

SUMMARY of COURT HEARING
SEPTEMBER 29th, 2004

 


 

On September 29th, 2004 Judge Rapoport ordered the Federal Government to file a written brief in opposition to the brief filed above by Ed Forchion on behalf of himself and Patrick Duff. The Judge then gave the Federal Government 10 days to respond and Njweedman 10 days after that to reply to the Gov't brief! The Judge said he will return a order on Nov 10th, 2004. - Imagine that!!! A FEDERAL JUDGE will rule if "NJWEEDMAN" can smoke marijuana at the Liberty Bell. Almost on the anniversary of the signing of the RFRA.



 

 

 

Finally, (late) on Nov 8th, 2004 just two days before the hearing the U.S. Attorney files the Governments response to our motion to dismiss. Leaving us at a dis-advantage!

The Government agrees with NJWEEDMAN and say’s:

“In limited circumstances, the RFRA creates an affirmative defense in a criminal prosecution”.

( READ ENTIRE GOVERNMENT BRIEF HERE)

 

YET ON

11/10/2004 - CONVICTED!!!

 

11/10/2004
TWO MARIJUANA PROPONENTS CONVICTED
(CLICK HERE)

It's not over!

 We will appeal all the way to

 "The U.S. Supreme Court"!


11/10/2004 - Philadelphia Federal Court: JUDGE RAPOPORT does a 180 degree turnabout in courtroom demeaner, falsely claims "the RFRA isn't a nation-wide Act and doesn't apply to the 3rd Circuit". Then say's what he witnessed on on the Video tape of the incident(s) weren't religious but political! This he claims then leaves us defenseless and he convicts. ( READ HERE) – He sentence’s NJWEEDMAN to 1 year (suspended) and Duff to 6 months (suspended) – Why the different sentences? Rapoport refused to answer why! Njweedman say’s; “because of the color of my skin, Rapoport was pissed off that I had the nerve to question him in court (‘a respected whiteman’)”. He said I was dis-respectful. (I guess I did say “yesssa bossss” )  -

 

NJWEEDMAN & DUFF CONVICTED!
Nov. 10th, 2004


Two marijuana proponents convicted of possession

Two proponents of legalizing marijuana were convicted yesterday of misdemeanor counts of possession of marijuana during three protests at Independence National Historical Park after a federal judge rejected their claim that smoking was constitutionally protected because they are Rastafarians.

Edward Forchion, 40, a perennial political candidate from Browns Mills in Burlington County who goes by the name "NJ Weedman," and Patrick L. Duff, 27, of Philadelphia, were convicted for their actions during demonstrations near the Liberty Bell on Dec. 20, March 20 and April 17.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport set sentencing for tomorrow, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin R. Hayes said each man faces a year's probation, with Forchion also facing a $750 fine and Duff a $500 fine. Rapoport rejected their claim that the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act exempted them from marijuana laws because marijuana is considered a sacrament in the Caribbean religion of Rastafarianism.


By, Joseph A. Slobodzian Staff writer

 

 

 (READ TRANSCRIPT OF THE NOV 12th - SENTENCEING HERE)

 

NJWEEDMAN & DUFF SENTENCED
Nov. 12th, 2004


 

11/13/2004

For marijuana proponent, testing worse than jail

 

By Inquirer staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian
 at 215-854-2658 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.



Edward Forchion's unique faith-based initiative - a religious exemption from marijuana laws because the drug is a sacrament to Rastafarians - ended yesterday with harsh penance from a federal judge: random drug testing.
(Click picture see video)

Forchion - the Burlington County proponent of legal marijuana who styles himself as NJ Weedman - and acolyte Patrick A. Duff, a Philadelphia car dealer and ordained-by-mail Universalist Life Church minister, were each sentenced to a year's probation and fined $150 for lighting up near the Liberty Bell on independence Mall.


Forchion, 40, and Duff, 28, argued that the incidents on Dec. 20, March 20 and April 17 were protected by the Constitution and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act because the smoking occurred in a Rastafarian religious service.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport agreed with National Park Service rangers and the prosecutor - smoking pot in the park violated Independence National Historical Park regulations and federal drug laws.

For the defendants, what was worse than losing what even Rapoport called a "unique case, to say the least, with some substantial issues," was random drug testing, the one mandatory term for all federal probationers.

To obtain a base-level reading, the judge said, both men had to say when they last used marijuana before their first urine test.

It was then about 3 p.m.


"Last night I ingested the sacrament cannabis at
midnight," Duff replied.

"At 10 minutes after one today," Forchion said, "I pulled into the parking lot; I ingested the sacrament and prayed that you would not impose drug testing, which for me is a prison sentence."

Violating probation, Rapoport warned them, would result in a year in federal prison. The judge noted that earlier in the hearing, Forchion said he once had gone three years without smoking marijuana.

"If you can, on your own volition, stop using marijuana and now you don't - whatever happens to you, you do to yourself," Rapoport said. "Mr. Forchion, you're here simply because you've decided what the law is."

Forchion, Duff and pro bono attorney Michael Coard said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, if needed, to seek the same protection Catholics got for Communion wine during Prohibition and some Native American groups got for peyote.

Rapoport, however, said the videotapes Forchion and Duff made of their three arrests at Independence Mall undercut their own defense: "On its face, it's clearly a demonstration; the fact that you prayed... doesn't make this a religious service."

In one incident, Forchion and Duff prayed for prisoners serving time for violating marijuana laws. Duff then intoned, "It's time to practice our religion," and they lit a marijuana cigarette and began smoking before park rangers moved in.

Forchion, of Browns Mills, a courier and former trucker, has been an outspoken advocate of legalizing marijuana for about 10 years and a perennial political candidate.

Yesterday, his misfortunes kept compounding. After he admitted smoking marijuana before the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin R. Hayes reminded him he had better find another way home.

Getting arrested for driving under the influence, Rapoport added, would also violate probation.


 

In my opinion this case wasn't decided on the merits of the law, but on political correctness. The Judge in this case claimed the RFRA wasn't a nation-wide law. That is aburd! I'm going to appeal and I have very little doubt that this conviction will be overturned. It’s based on a totally wrong legal conclusion. I demand a new trial.

 

WHY ARE  JUDGE's
ALLOWED TO IGNORE THE LAW
WITH NO REPERCUSSIONS OR EXPOSURE!


 

In our case U.S. Park Police Vs Forchion, Duff - on Nov. 10th, 2004 Judge Rapoport "falsey" claimed that the Freedom of Religion and Restoration Act of 1993 didn't apply here in the 3rd circuit! This is factually ludicious, the RFRA was signed into law by the President of the U.S. of America on Nov 16th, 1993 and prior to that both house's of Congress passed it. What happened here was this Act was designed and passed really to protect native - American's and thier use of peyote. Many think I've found a loop-hole and I'm trying to drive a cannabis laden truck thru it and I don't deny it. But the law is the law, this law gives me a defense to my "religious use". I can use this law as a denfense. Yet, because my faith is illegal, and public policy is opposed to the use of my faith's sacrament: Marijuana; the Judge (LIED) when claimed the law didn't apply here and then used that flawed legal logic to deny my "MOTION TO DISMISS". The Judge knows I'm going to appeal but in the mean time he get's to punish me based on his flawed legal logic!


YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT JUST DO A GOOGLE SEARCH, TO SEE IF THE FRRA WAS USED IN THE 3rd CIRCUIT BEFORE: GOOGLE "3rd Circuit RFRA"


Please note that my case has been assigned to 3rd circuit federal Judge Dalzell, who denied my "motion for a stay of sentence". What many will find interesting is he has upheld the RFRA himself several times and yet failed to grant my "stay" even though it is clear Judge Rapoport was wrong in saying the RFRA didn't apply here in the 3rd circuit.

3rd Circuit JUDGE DALZELL: US Vs PHILADELPHIA YEARLY MEETING  read this story, clearly Judge Dazell knows the RFRA is a valid nation-wide law. (SEE: DAZELL AFFIRMS RFRA) ( QUAKER CASE) -  LAW JOURNAL ARTICLE: QUAKER MUST OBEY IRS LEVYJUDGE DAZELL  UPHOLDS RFRA  -
For more on JUDGE DALZELL SEE GOOGLE SEARCH.

3rd Circuit JUDGE SURRICKDENNIS BLACKHAWK Vs GAME COMMISSION - again we see another 3rd Circuit Judge invoking the RFRA in his rulings. You can read this Judge's opinion on this case here: OPINION BLACKHAWK Vs GAME COMMISSION


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOV. 12th, 2004

 SENTENCED!

 

 

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    v.
EDWARD FORCHION

 

        SENTENCING ORDER

 

AND NOW, this 12th day of November, 2004, the defendant having been found guilty of the following five offenses: 

  
(1) Possession of a controlled substance within a national park, 36 C.F.R. § 2.35(b)(2), Violation No. P028826 (12/20/2003), Violation No. P257995 (3/20/2004), Violation No. P257037 (
4/17/2004) ;

(2) interfering with agency functions, 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1), Violation No. P257996 (3/20/2004); and

(3) disorderly conduct, 36 C.F.R. § 2.34 (a) (2) , Violation No. P257038 (
4/17/2004), it is hereby ORDERED that the defendant be placed on probation for a term of 1 year.

 

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3563, the Court imposes the following mandatory conditions:

 

(1) the defendant shall not commit another Federal, State, or local crime during the term of probation;
(2) the defendant shall not unlawfully possess a controlled substance;
(3) the defendant shall refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance and shall submit to one drug test within 15 days of placement on probation and at least two periodic drug tests thereafter, as directed by the probation officer. The defendant shall comply with the standard conditions that have been adopted by this Court, as set forth in Attachment A.


(4) In addition, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3563(b), the defendant shall not enter Independence National Historical Park.

In imposing the above sentence, the Court has considered the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and makes the following findings of fact:

1.    The offenses of conviction include three instances of possession of a controlled substance within a national park, one instance of interfering with agency functions stemming from the defendant's refusal to obey an order to surrender evidence and his destruction of the evidence, and one instance of disorderly conduct involving significant disruption of visitor activities within Independence National Historical Park;

2. The defendant has announced his intention to continue his unlawful activities within Independence National Historical Park; and

3. The sentence imposed reflects the seriousness of the offenses, promotes respect for the law, and provides just punishment for the offenses;

4. The sentence imposed affords adequate deterrence to criminal conduct and protects the public from further crimes of the defendant. BY THE ORDER:





ARNOLD C. RAPOPORT
United States Magistrate
Court Judge


ATTACHMENT A

STANDARD CONDITIONS OF  SUPERVISION

1)  the defendant shall not leave the judicial district without the permission of the court or probation officer;

2)  the defendant shall report to the probation officer and shall submit a truthful and complete written report within the first five days of each month;

3)  the defendant shall answer truthfully all inquiries by the probation officer and follow the instructions of the probation officer;

4)   the defendant shall support his or her dependents and meet other family responsibilities;

5)  the defendant shall work regularly at a lawful occupation unless excused by the probation officer for schooling, training, or other acceptable reasons;

6)   the defendant shall notify the probation officer ten days prior to any change in residence or employment;

7)   the defendant shall refrain from excessive use of alcohol;

8)   the defendant shall not frequent places where controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered;

9)   the defendant shall not associate with any persons engaged in criminal activity, and shall not associate with any person convicted of a felony unless granted permission to do so by the probation officer;

10) the defendant shall permit a probation officer to visit him or her at any time at home or elsewhere and shall permit confiscation of any contraband observed in plain view of the probation officer;

11) the defendant shall notify the probation officer within seventy‑two hours of being arrested or questioned by a law enforcement officer;

12) the defendant shall not enter into any agreement to act as an informer or a special agent of a law enforcement agency without the permission of the court;

13) as directed by the probation officer, the defendant shall notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by the defendant's criminal record or personal history or characteristics, and shall permit the probation officer to make such notifications and to confirm the defendant's compliance with such notification requirement.

 

U.S.., National Park Police, Vs FORCHION

NJWEEDMAN VOWS TO FIGHT ALL THE WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT!!!
READ COURT DOCUMENTS BELOW
or you can go to the Government(s) Pacer system and follow for yourself.



TRANSCRIPTS
_________________________________________


COURT TRANSCIPT
(
09/29/2004)         

COURT TRANSCRIPT
(
11/10/2004)


COURT TRANSCRIPT
(
11/12/2004)

______________________________________________


NOTICE OF APPEAL
(
11/22/2004)         

MOTION FOR A
 STAY OF ILLEGAL SENTENCE

(
11/22/04)


MEMORANDUM
(
11/22/04)

 

 

           NJWEEDMAN WRITES JUDGE A LETTER OF:

CLARIFICATION
(
12/08/04)

 


HOASCA CASE!!!!
(
MUST SEE - 12/12/04)

 

US  SUPREME COURT 'UPHOLDS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM'

 

(12/12/04) - A New Mexico church has gotten a Christmas gift from the Supreme Court, winning permission for its members to use hallucinogenic tea and leaving the government holding the bag.


The high court lifted a temporary stay the government had won last week. The administration contends the tea is illegal and dangerous.


The attorney for the church, which is a branch of a Brazilian denomination, told justices that the tea (hoasca) is not only safe, but is sacred to members, who feel connected to God by using it.


She says since the federal agents raided the church in 1999 and began a legal fight over the tea, church members haven't been able to receive communion, a particular loss at Christmastime.


Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

__________________________________________________________________

NJWEEDMAN say's; "this U.S. Supreme Court ruling greatly increases my ulitimate chance of victory on the basis of the defense's provided by the RFRA. This blows Judge Rapoports "claim" that the RFRA didn't apply to the 3rd Circuit out of the water. - To bad the press won't write about it."

 

              

JUDGE DALZELL, PLEASE RECONSIDER YOUR
DENIAL OF MOTION FOR STAY
"SEE: MEMORANDUM-2"

        The defendant(s) in this case clearly are being denied numerous basic constitutional protections by the “magistrate Judge” in this matter. It is a matter of "public interest" to correct this “judicial persecution” other-wise there is no need for this country to criticize the Chinese for their treatment of the Faluan Gong, the Saudi’s for their treatment of Christians or expect the Sunni’s in Iraq to respect the Shiites. The conviction, sentence and probation condition(s) are nothing more than “persecution” of a citizen for his choose in religions by the Christian majority. The law of the land  (RFRA)  wasn't followed by the Judge in this case. The Judge instead chose to protect the Government(s) policy of "marijuana prohibition" instead of the constitution and the Law.

The (CSA) Controlled Substances Act of 1970) provides for exemptions based on other federal laws at section: XXX.  I've invoked the protections (Federal Law) in the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993 which allows for the defense of religious use of substance's otherwise illegal per federal law at U.S.C. 42 2000bb-1 .

 

DEC. 15th, 2004
 NJWEEDMAN WINS
"
MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION"
Judge Dalzell to reconsider his denial of stay, orders Government to file a written brief in response to “motion for stay”.

(READ HERE )

 

JUDGE DAZELL’S ORDER

12/15/2004

__________________________________________________

1.      Defendant’s motion for reconsideration is GRANTED;

2.      – Our order of November 29, 2004 is VACATED

3.      By December 29, 2004, the Government shall RESPOND to defendant’s motion for stay of illegal sentence (docket entry #2) and the memorandum that he submitted to supplement that motion (docket entry#5);

4.      Defendants motion for free transcripts and tape of proceedings is GRANTED IN PART;

5.      The Clerk shall PROVIDE Forchion with a transcript of all proceedings before Judge Rapoport;

_______________________________________________

 

( READ COMPLETE ORDER HERE:)

 

THE US ATTORNY HAS BEEN ORDERED
 TO RESPOND TO THE MOTION BELOW:

BY 12/29/04

 




EDWARD FORCHION

P.O. Box-1302

Browns Mills, N.J. 08015

 

 

 

U.S. District Court

21400 U.S. Courthouse

600 Market Street

Philadelphia, Pa 19101

 

 

 

Edward Forchion                                              :                       MOTION(s)

                        (Defendant)                              :  “stay of illegal sentence – pending appeal”

:            Preliminary Injunction                       

            Vs.                                                       :       “emergent evidentiary hearing”

                                                                        :

U.S. Park Police, et al                                      :                -Illegal Sentence-

                        (Plaintiff)                                   :            Case No.- _04-949-M

 

Honorable District Court Judge,

 

            I Edward Forchion the defendant in this case requests that the district court allow this defendant to proceed Propria Personia. I am untrained in the legal procedures and legalese required in Federal Court as such please accept this letter brief in lieu of a formal legal brief.

 

 I Edward Forchion the defendant in the captioned case first motions the U.S. District Court for a emergent evidentiary hearing, a “Stay of Sentence pending appeal”; and a “Preliminary Injunction” to the illegal sentence handed down by Federal Magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport on Nov. 12th, 2004 who “falsely/inaccurately” claimed the Freedom of Religion and Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. §2000bb(a)) does not apply to the 3rd circuit while it factually was passed as a nation-wide law in 1993. True, in 1997 the RFRA was limited by the decision in City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997) to federal Jurisdictions, in 2002 this was again up held People of Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 2002) which held that the RFRA was valid in Federal Jurisdictions only. In addition to that this sentence ignores the basic Constitutional protections of the 1st Amendment.

 

SUMMARY OF CASE

 

The U.S. Constitution’s 1st amendment was ratified on 12/15/1791. The first Amendment gives citizens the right to choose their faiths. I (Edward Forchion) was born July 23rd, 1964 to African-American parents who were practicing Christians (baptist). At age 12 I rejected Christianity as the religion of our former enslaver’s and forced onto our people thru the 350+ year “Christian condoned” institution of slavery. At 12 I veiwed myself as “free” and sought a religion more appropriate for a “free american” I  choose Islam. My thinking at the time was if I’m not a slave why must I continue to practice the Religion of our slavers. Around 18 years of age I rejected Islam and became a out-spoken Athesis. Which I remained until age 30 when I had a profound religious experience while contimplating suicide in Tucson Arizona in 1994. This experience guided me to accept the faith of RASTAFARI to which I still remain. I have been a very vocal proponent of my faith and publicly prosletize my beliefs and practices ever since. This public avocation of my faith has led government authorities as well as private christian citizens to persecute me for my choose in religions.

 

In 1996 I read about the case of  DAWN MEEKS (United States v. Bauer, Meeks, 84 F.3d 1549 (9th Cir. 1996)) a practicing RASTAFARIAN imprisoned for her faith. Because of this case I became aware of  the 1993 Freedom of Religion and Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. §2000bb(a)) and the People of Guam v. Guerrero.  

 

In 2000 I myself was imprisoned similarly to MEEKS in the State of New Jersey. On April 3rd, 2002 I was released from state prison into the State of New Jersey’s Intensive Supervision Program. ISP attempted to force me into NA/AA (I successfully fought the ISP requirement of N/A and A/A meetings by citing: Kerr Vs Farrey, 95 F.3d 472, and Warner Vs Orange County Dept. of Probation, 115 F.3d 1068.) On May 28th, 2002 I read about the victory of GUERRERO in People of Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 2002); which ruled the RFRA allowed for the religious use of marijuana on federal lands. I was arrested by State authorities (June 6-10th,  2002) and held for 5 days for publicly talking about my beliefs and released when I “feinted” I would not talk about my faith again. 

 

When I re-nigged on this promise and did  once again voiced my beliefs on August 19th , 2002 I was imprisoned; for prosletizing about my faith, beliefs and practices but this time the State intended to send me to prison for 10 years. On Oct. 9th, 2002 from the Burlington County Jail I filed a “Writ of Habeas Corpus” in Federal Court alledging that State of New Jersey officials had imprisoned me illegally for exercising my 1st Amendment rights. On Jan 24th, 2003 Federal Judge Irenas (District Court of New Jersey (camden)) agreed with me and ordered that I be released for jail and returned to the ISP citing I was imprisoned for exercising 1st Amendment rights FORCHION v ISP,STATE OF NEW JERSEY, 240 F.Supp.2d 302.

 

On Dec. 3rd, 2003 I was released for ISP and celebrated by having a private religious ceremony at the Liberty Bell and announced a I would have a public demonstration of the legal “religious use” of marijuana on federal property every 3rd  Saturday of each month at the liberty bell. The first of these public ceromonies was held on Dec., 20th, 2003 for which I was arrested. Privately, I pray on Fort Dix military reservation almost daily. I live within a couple hundred yards of Ft Dix.

 

On Dec. 20th, 2003 I was arrested for engaging in what I truly believe is legal per the RFRA and once again on March 20th, 2004 and April 17th, 2004. I was arrested along with co-defendant Pat Duff.

 

On December 20, 2003, defendant Forchion was issued Violation No. P028826 and defendant Duff was issued Violation No. P257101, both for possession of a controlled substance within a national park in violation of 36 C.F.R. §2.35(b)(2). – The actions were video taped by defendants.


On March 20th, 2004 Defendants (Forchion and Duff) were both  issued violation notices for possession of a controlled substance within a national park (Violation No. P257995 to Forchion and No. P257040 to Duff).  In addition, Forchion was issued Violation No. P257996 for interfering with agency functions, 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1), because Forchion ingested (ate) the marijuana.- The actions were video taped by defendants.

 

On April 17, 2004, I was issued Violation No. P257037. Duff was issued Violation No. P256628 for interfering with agency functions.  In addition, I was issued Violation No. P257038 for disorderly conduct in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.34(a)(2) - The actions were video taped by the defendants.

 

 

 .    

On September 28, 2004, hearings were scheduled before the magistrate Court on the violation notices issued on December 20, 2003 and March 20 and April 17, 2004 in connection with my public ceromonies (ingesting marijuana) in Independence National Historical Park.  I submitted a Pro Se brief, to the Court and the government a pleading denominated as “Motion: To Dismiss ‘Affirmative Defense’ of Religious Freedom (42 U.S.C. §2004bb(a)).”  The Court directed the government to submit a written response to this pleading. 

 

On Nov. 10th, 2004 the defendants submitted two videos of the incidences in question and the federal government did submit a brief and in it’s brief say’s:

 

In limited circumstances, the RFRA creates an affirmative defense in a criminal prosecution(*1).  To state a prima facie free exercise claim, a defendant must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, three threshold requirements:  “The governmental action must (1) substantially burden, (2) a religious belief rather than a philosophy or way of life, (3) which belief is sincerely held by the defendant.”  United States v. Meyers, 95 F.3d 1475, 1482 (10th Cir. 1996)(citations omitted).  Only if the defendant establishes these threshold requirements does the burden shift to the government to demonstrate that the challenged regulation furthers a compelling state interest in the least restrictive manner.  Id.

A substantial burden “is one that forces adherents of a religion to refrain from religiously motivated conduct, inhibits, or constrains conduct or expression that manifests a central tenet of a person’s religious beliefs, or compels conduct or expression that is contrary to those beliefs.”  Mack v. O’Leary, 80 F.3d 1175, 1179 (7th Cir. 1996).

 

 

Judge Rapoport failed to view the entire video tapes which clearly showed at 420 pm we engaged in a Religious ceremony. Despite the defense clearly meeting the burden the magistrate court Judge denied the “MOTION TO DISSMISS” by falsely and knowingly claiming “the 1993 Freedom of Religion and Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. §2000bb(a)) doesn’t apply to the 3rd district” when we all know it was enacted as a nation-wide law and has never been repealed by congress!!! The defense asserts the Judge made numerous other legal errors and made it clear on the record that this “denial” would be appealed based on the Judge’s legal “ERRORS” and misapprehend(s) the law. Clearly Judge Rapoport fails to comprehend the rulings and interpretations in (United States v. Bauer, 84 F.3d 1549 (9th Cir. 1996)), City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997) and  People of Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 2002) or O Centro Espirita v. Ashcroft, 314 F.3d 463, 467  ).

The defense requested a “stay of sentence pending appeal” from the trial court Judge, Judge Rapoport also denied that request, and now the defendant(s) in this action motion to the District Court to “stay the sentence pending a legal appeal”. Clearly the defendants were acting under the true and legal belief that their actions were and are legal.

 

LEGAL argument(s)

 

A - VIOLATION OF THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE

 

The sentence handed down on Nov. 12th, 2004 is unconstitutional, malious, deliberate and a blatant violation of my 1st Amendment Rights to “Political Expression”, “Freedom of Speech and Religion” specifically. The magistrate Judge, Judge Rapoport is attempting to prohibit the practice or avocation of my religion (*RASTAFARI) because it doesn’t conform to the standards of (his) the Government religion: CHRISTIANITY but more insidious is his order of drug counseling which in effect is and attempt to brain-wash me into changing my “religious beliefs” with Government propaganda. This has happened to me on numerous occasions in the State of New Jersey as I relate in the above summary. This sentence isn’t designed to protect the public or enforce law it is designed to prevent the practice of my faith. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has used this definition of RASTAFARI in STEELE Vs BLACKMAN, 236 F.3d (3rd Cir.) 2000:


*RASTAFARIANISM: Is a religion which first took root in JAMAICA in the ninth century and has since gained adherents in the UNITED STATES. See: Mircea Eliade, Encyclopedia of Religion pages 96-97 (1998 edition). It is among the 1,558 religious groups sufficiently stable and distinctive to be identified as one of the existing religions in this country. See J. Gordan Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religious pages 870-71 (1991 edition). Standard descriptions of the religion emphasize the use of marijuana in cultic ceromonies designed to bring the believer closer to the divinity and to enhance unity among believers. Functionally, marijuana known as GANJA in the language of the religion --operates as a sacrament with the power to raise the partakers above the mundane and to enhance their spiritual unity. UNITED STATES Vs BAUER, 84 F.3d 1549, 1556 (9th Cir.1996), MCBRIDE Vs SHAWNEE CITY ,71 F.Supp. 2d 1098, 1100 (5th Cir) 1999, STEELE Vs BLACKMAN, 236 F.3d (3rd Cir.) 2000

 

 

ARGUMENT AGAINST - DRUG COUNSELING/TESTING

N/A- Narcotics Anonymous or its sister program Alcoholics Anonymous are at the forefront of 90-95 percent of all alcohol and drug addiction treatment in this country thus for the sake of the INSTANT CASE I will refer to drug counseling as NA/AA. Our court system routinely orders “drug violators” and “DUI offenders” into NA/AA, violating the establishment clause of the Constitution on separation of church and state. NA/AA has become the de facto state religion. Many insist NA/AA is not religious. A cursory reading of the NA/AA Big Book or its 12 step guidelines should dispel this notion. It is clear that NA/AA promotes a “higher being” which is a “religious concept” whether NA-AA actually calls this higher being, GOD, JAH or JAHWEH makes no difference the concept of a high being is “GOD like”.

Two federal courts and several state supreme courts have held that NA/AA is a religious organization and that no one may, therefore, be compelled by the GOVERNMENT to participate. Kerr Vs Farrey, 95 F.3d 472 and Warner Vs Orange County Dept. of Probation, 115 F.3d 1068.  

In the INSTANT CASE before this court whether the Government uses NA/AA or some form of “religion-less” anti-drug propaganda program. The mere court ordering of these defendants into a “drug program” which attempts to “brain-wash” them into changing there religious belief (that the substance marijuana is not good as their faith teaches them), to the Governments (Christian) irrational belief/position that marijuana is dangerous, addictive and should not be used for anything violates the establishment clause of the Constitution on separation of church and state. Marijuana is the sacrament of these defendants faith like wine is to Christians or Peyote is to Native Americans or hoascais to members of the Uniao do Vegetal church (O Centro Espirita v. Ashcroft, 314 F.3d 463, 467  ). Equally drug testing, violates church and state for it’s sole purpose in this case is to determine if the defendant has continued his “religious practices and beliefs”.

 

 

MOTION FOR STAY OF ILLEGAL SENTENCE

 

 

Specifically these conditions of probation are constitutionally volatile:

 

1)   – (condition #7) The defendant shall refrain from excessive use of alcohol and shall not purchase, possess, use, distribute, or administer any controlled substance or any paraphernalia related to any controlled substance, except as prescribed by a physician;

 

2)   – (condition #8) The defendant shall not frequent places where controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered;

 

3)   – (condition  #9) The defendant shall not associate with any persons engaged in criminal activity, and shall not associate with any person convicted of a felony unless granted permission to do so by the probation officer;

 

4)   – (condition #10) The defendant shall permit a probation officer to visit him or her at any time at home or elsewhere and shall permit confiscation of any contraband observed in plain view by the probation officer;

 

5)   – (special condition #3) The defendant shall participate in a drug aftercare treatment program which may include urine testing at the direction and discretion of the probation officer.

 

 

6)   – (special condition # 4) The defendant shall not participate and/or attend any marijuana related events/functions and shall refrain from entering the Independent National Park.

 

 

 

 

The reason(s) these conditions are “constitutionally” volatile are as follows:

 

1)           – (condition #7) The “herb” marijuana is the sacrament of my faith and I’ve provided testimony to the Court of my use of this sacrament “religiously” every Saturday. The “magistrate Judge” rejected this without obtaining expert testimony or seeing this thru the eyes of a neutral party.

 

2)              – (condition #8) A couple of times a month I attend RASTAFARIAN religious services and this “condition” is specifically designed to prevent me from associating with members of my faith or engaging in activities associated with my faith. The “HERB” marijuana is used at all RASTAFARIAN ceromonies.

 

 

3)              - (condition #9) As above, this condition is designed to prevent me from associating with members of my faith or attending RASTAFARIAN religious services. Due to the RELIGIOUSLY intolerant “marijuana laws” many members of my faith have been convicted of “marijuana crimes”. My “RAS” (religious cleric) has spent time in prison for his use of marijuana as have I.

 

4)              – (condition #10) This condition will subject me to hand over “RELIGIOUS ITEMS” to the “GOVERNMENT” (probation officer), such as my CHALISS. This Challis is used during Religious ceromonies to consume the herb “marijuana” is a similar way Catholics use devices to consume the fruit grape (wine) during Christian services. I operate a house of worship out of the garage in my house and have for years this condition subjects me to a probation violation just for practicing my faith.

 

 

5)            (special condition #3) – This is the most offensive of the conditions and is a special condition designed to “prevent” me from utilizing the sacrament of my faith with the threat of arrest if thru “urine testing” it is discovered that I’m continuing to exercise my religious freedom by using the sacrament of my faith: “marijuana”. This condition is a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and is further religiously intolerant for it treats my faith like a “DRUG ADDICTION”. I have no drug addiction I have a faith. No amount of Government brainwashing or propaganda will make me change my faith.  These so called treatment programs are really programs espousing “Christian beliefs” and I’m not a Christian  and refuse to attend or listen to this non-sense that marijuana is anything other than what my faith teaches me that it is “GOOD”. This condition is Religiously intolerant and I know for a fact there are court decisions that prevent the Government from force’s me to attend programs designed to “change my belief’s” or accept “GOD” in a Christian way.

 

6)           (special condition # 4) – This condition again would prevent me from attending the religious services of my faith or participating in “political” events that call for the end of the “war on marijuana” which makes my faith a illegal religion in the USA. In the past I’ve had illegal order’s such as this inflicted on me. In 2002 I was ordered by State Officials not to talk about marijuana, talk to the press or associate with other persons who advocate legalization. I refused to comply and was jailed upon which I filed a “WRIT of HABEAS CORPUS” and after 5 months was ordered released by Federal Judge Irenas who cited:

 

 

 

The First Amendment exists so as to promote debate on issues of public importance. In this case, the advocacy of the legalization of marijuana is a legitimate political position in this country. The Libertarian Party, whose presidential candidate received over 380,000 votes in the 2000 election, advocates the legalization of drugs. Libertarian Party website at http://www.lp.org/issues/relegalize.html and http://www.lp.org/campaigns/pres/. Many elected public officials have called for a liberalization of the nation's drug laws. Simply put, Plaintiff's place in this debate will do nothing to harm a public that is already itself debating the current state of our nation's drug laws.

FORCHION vs ISP,STATE OF NEW JERSEY, 240 F.Supp.2d 302.

 

What kind of message does this order send? That Independence Park is only open to “CHRISTIANS”. I have tape of Christians having weddings (religious ceremony) in the park where “wine” is consumed without the Government attacking them as is the case every time I attempt to have a religious ceremony.

 

MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

 

A district court should grant preliminary injunctive relief only if: (1) the defendant is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) denial will result in irreparable harm to the defendant; (3) granting the injunction will not result in irreparable harm to the plaintiff; and (4) granting the injunction is in the public interest. Maldonado v. Houstoun, 157 F.3d 179, 184 (3d Cir. 1998). In light of the fundamental constitutional issue(s) raised by the defendant, the availability of preliminary injunctive relief will turn primarily on whether defendant has sufficiently demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits with respect to his constitutional claim(s).

 

MOTION FOR EMERGENT EVIDENTIARY HEARING

 

It is clear that substantial CONSTITUTIONAL violations have occurred in this case specifically in regard to this sentence and in the interest of the public and constitutional law the court should hold a immediate evidentiary hearing to determine the valid “constitutional issue’s” raised by this defendant. Without such a hearing it is clear that the court(s) objective of either jailing the defendant for exercising his religious beliefs or stopping his religious practices with prevail.

 

 

ANALYSIS OF THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM and RESTORATION ACT

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

 

In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876 (1990), Smith, a member of the Native American Church, ingested peyote for sacramental purposes at a church ceremony. This led Smith’s employer to fire him. The state denied his application for unemployment benefits because a state statute disqualified individuals who had been fired for work-related “misconduct.” Id. at 874.Smith sued, arguing that the denial of unemployment benefits burdened his First Amendment right to exercise his religion freely. The Supreme Court allowed Oregon to enforce the anti-drug law against Smith. Id. at 884-85.

 

This outraged many members of Congress who then drafted the RFRA in direct response to Employment Division v. Smith, To much fan-fare and public support Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”) (42 U.S.C. §2000bb(a)) as a nation-wide federal law. On Nov. 16t, 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the RFRA into law with these comments:  "The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our Founders cared a lot about religion. And one of the reasons they worked so hard to get the first amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp." Bill Clinton.

 

 

            In UNITED STATES Vs BAUER, 84 F.3d 1549, 1556 (9th Cir.1996, the defendants, practicing Rastafarians, challenged their 1994 convictions for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana, along with simple possession of marijuana on the grounds that the convictions violated the RFRA. The Ninth Circuit reversed the convictions for simple possession and held that the prosecution had the obligation to show that universal enforcement of the marijuana laws was the least restrictive means of preventing the sale and distribution of marijuana.* Id. at 1559. The Court explained that in enacting the RFRA, Congress found “the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution.” Id. at 1557. As explained, Congress was critical of Employment Division and enacted the RFRA. Id.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. P.F. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 532, 138 L.Ed.2d 624, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997) declared RFRA unconstitutional as applied to the States but in no-way did the Supreme Court rule the RFRA was totally unconstitutional, and Congress never repealed it. If congress had intended to repeal  it would have instead congress allowed the RFRA to remain in good standing. 

 

Thus in in People of Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 2002) (decided on May 28, 2002), the Ninth Circuit ruled that the RFRA forbids prosecuting Rastafarians for using marijuana within the federal realm, such as a United States territory or a national park (like Philadelphia’s Independence Park), thus upholding a portion of the RFRA. In Guerrero, the defendant, a Rastafarian arrested at the Guam airport with five ounces of marijuana and 10 ounces of seeds, was charged with importing the drugs from Hawaii. The Court ruled that a Rastafarian whose Jamaica-based religion regards marijuana as a sacrament that brings believers closer to divinity could not be prosecuted for merely possessing marijuana in the “federal realms.”

_______________________________________________________________________

*The Bauer Court suggested a hearing to determine whether defendants are Rastafarians and whether the use of marijuana is a part of Rastafarianism. Id. Concerning Meeks’ request for funds under the Criminal Justice Act to retain a theology expert, the Court held that the district court will have to determine whether a reasonable attorney would engage such services. Id. at 1559. which follows other appeals courts, applies to California, eight other Western states, and the Pacific territories of Guam where the case originated and the Northern Mariana Islands. If it became a nationwide standard, it would cover the federal enclaves of Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and any other federal property. The Court, however, ruled that the defendant could be prosecuted for importing marijuana, since “Rastafarianism does not require importation of a controlled substance, which increases (its) availability ...” Id. at 1223 (Emphasis in the original).

 

 

This distinction in Guerrero does not make sense since it is the equivalent to saying that, while wine is a necessary sacrament for some Christians, the persons administering the sacrament would have to grow their own grapes. If a Rastafarian is permitted to smoke ganja on federal grounds as a constitutionally protected behavior, it is illogical to prosecute the person who provides the ganja.

 

The RFRA protects the religious use of marijuana by practicing Rastafarians, just as the 1919 Volstead Act (Prohibition Act) protected the religious use of alcohol in the Catholic Church during the prohibition of Alcohol by providing a “religious defense”. As Rastafarianism regards marijuana as a sacrament necessary to the practice of the religion, issuance of summons are thus unconstitutional and should have been dis-missed by the magistrate Judge.

 

 

 

ANALYSIS OF RELEVENT/SIMILAR CASE

(O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal Vs United States)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently ruled federal drug laws do not apply to a particular church under the provisions of the RFRA.

 

John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, et al., appeal an order in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico preliminarily enjoining the government from prohibiting or penalizing the sacramental use of hoasca, a substance containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a drug listed in Section I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. §§ 801-904, by O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, a small religious organization. We affirm.

Uniao do Vegetal, President of the Uniao do Vegetal's United States chapter Jeffrey Bronfman, and several other church members (collectively, UDV) filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction against the United States Attorney General, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Customs Service, and the Department of the Treasury (collectively, Government), alleging violation of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, Equal Protection principles, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), international laws and treaties, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1. UDV sought declaratory and preliminary injunctive relief against the Government's penalty or prohibition of the church's importation, possession, and use of hoasca and against any attempt to seize the drug or prosecute Uniao do Vegetal members.

After a two-week hearing, on August 12, 2002, the district court granted UDV's motion for a preliminary injunction in a unpublished Memorandum Opinion and Order.(*) The court rejected UDV's arguments that hoasca is not covered under the CSA and prohibiting the importation, possession, and use of the drug violates the Constitution and international law. However, the court held UDV had advanced a successful RFRA claim.

For purposes of the preliminary injunction, the Government did not dispute UDV had established a prima facie case under RFRA ­ a substantial burden imposed by the federal government on a sincere exercise of religion. See Kikumura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 960 (10th Cir. 2001).(2) The burden therefore shifted to the Government to show "the challenged regulation furthers a compelling interest in the least restrictive manner." See 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(b); United States v. Meyers, 95 F.3d 1475, 1482 (10th Cir. 1996). The Government asserted three compelling interests in prohibiting hoasca: protection of the health and safety of Uniao do Vegetal members; potential for diversion from the church to recreational users; and compliance with the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (Convention). Convention on Psychotropic Substances, opened for signature Feb. 21, 1971, 1019 U.N.T.S. 175 (ratified by the United States in 1980) [hereinafter Convention].

The district court required the Government to prove sacramental hoasca consumption poses a serious health risk to Uniao do Vegetal members and, if sanctioned, would lead to significant diversion to non-religious use. Finding evidence on the health risks to UDV members "in equipoise," evidence on risk of diversion "virtually balanced," and hoasca not covered by the Convention, the court held the Government failed to meet its "onerous burden" under RFRA. Because it found no compelling government interests, the court did not conduct a least restrictive means analysis.

The district court concluded UDV demonstrated "substantial likelihood of success on the merits" and satisfied the other three requirements for preliminary injunction. First, on irreparable injury, the court noted, "Tenth Circuit law indicates that the violations of religious exercise rights protected under the RFRA represent irreparable injuries." Second, on balance of harms, the court held, "in light of the closeness of the parties' evidence regarding the safety of hoasca use and its potential for diversion, the scale tips in the Plaintiffs' favor." Finally, the court reasoned failure to vindicate religious freedom protected under RFRA ­ a statute specifically enacted by Congress, as representative of the public, to countermand a Supreme Court ruling ­ would be adverse to the public interest.

In an order dated November 12, 2002, the court delineated a remedy, preliminarily enjoining the Government from prohibiting or penalizing sacramental hoasca use by Uniao do Vegetal members. The court also required that the church, upon demand by the DEA, identify its members who handle hoasca outside of ceremonies, allow for on-site inspections and inventories, provide samples, identify times and locations of ceremonies, and designate a liaison to the DEA.

The Government moved for an emergency stay of the preliminary injunction pending appeal. On December 12, 2002, we granted the stay, holding UDV failed to demonstrate "clear and equivocal" right to relief. O Centro Espirita v. Ashcroft, 314 F.3d 463, 467 (10th Cir. 2002).

On appeal, UDV urged us to affirm the district court, contending the Government failed to prove hoasca poses health risks to church members, the Convention does not apply to hoasca, and Uniao do Vegetal's consumption of hoasca is comparable to the Native American Church's exempted use of peyote. Calling for a reversal, the Government's appeal focused on the compelling interests asserted and failed.

 

IN CONCLUSION

 

The use of marijuana in religions predates the Government Religion of Christianity, it is a fact that “marijuana” also known by many names has been religiously accepted by many faiths. Christians just happen not to accept the “good” of marijuana and instead adhere to superstitions that marijuana is the devil’s weed and have made religiously intolerant laws to prevent its use by non-Christians such as the defendant in this case. Regardless based on the reading of the 9th circuit in Guerrero and the 10th circuit in O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal the defendant(s) truely believe the RFRA is a nation-wide law and that our their actions while not condoned by the Government were in fact legal.  

 

The defendant clearly is being denied numerous basic constitutional protections by the “magistrate Judge” in this matter and it is a matter of public interest to correct this “judicial persecution” other-wise there is no need for this country to criticize the Chinese for their treatment of the Faluan Gong, the Saudi’s for their treatment of Christians or expect the Sunni’s in Iraq to respect the Shiites. This sentence and probation condition(s) are nothing more than “persecution” of a citizen for his choose in religions by the Christian majority. This is what the founding fathers of this country were trying to prevent with the 1st Amendment. The defendant in this case begs the court to hear this case immediately but in the mean-time requests that this court issue a stay of sentence until the court can hear the valid legal issue’s raised by this defendant and his co-defendant Pat Duff.

 

                                                                        Respectfully submitted by

Persecuted American,

________________________________

                                                                        Edward Forchion – aka- “NJWEEDMAN

CC- Philadelphia Inquirer, courier Post, Burlington County Times, Times of Trenton, Trentonian, and various internet websites and news organizations.

 

 

 

 

 


THE US ATTORNY HAS BEEN ORDERED,
BY JUDGE DALZELLS DEC. 14th, 2004 Order
 TO RESPOND TO THIS (above) BY
12/29/04,

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS FOR EXTENSION OF TIME
ONCE AGAIN DOESN'T ADHERE TO COURT
SCHEDULING !  "motions for extension"

12/22/2004
GOVERNMENT MOTION FOR EXTENSION
12/24/2004
NJWEEDMAN'S

OPPOSITION TO EXTENSION OF TIME
JUDGE DALZELL ORDER
12/23/2004
ORDER GRANTING EXTENSION

READ GOVERNMENT BRIEF:
IN OPPOSITION TO STAY OF ILLEGAL SENTENCE

1/5/2005



JUDGE DALZEL GRANTS "NJWEEDMANS"
MOTION FOR STAY OF ILLEGAL SENTENCE


<>1/10/2005
<>
<>Judge Dazell grants "NJWEEDMAN" his motion for a "stay of illegal sentence". Thus now NJWEEDMAN can fight this unjust conviction in the courtroom without the threat of imprisonment. - No drug tests!







(not weedman)
JOINT DECISION
A U.S. District Court Judge grants WEEDMAN a stay of sentence. For now.

1/18/2005


<>

by Cory Frolik

While he remains mired in legal troubles and no closer to seeing himself in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to argue his " right" to smoke marijuana, things don't look half bad for Ed Forchion. At least he can toke up and test his interpretation of federal laws without the fear of jail time.

Following the Nov. 12 sentencing hearing where he received a year of probation and a $150 fine for drug possession after organizing a series of marijuana smoke-outs at the Liberty Bell, Forchion, aka NJ Weedman, was worried. "Pencil me in jail," he said, predicting he wouldn't have much luck passing court-ordered drug testing [News, "Up in Smoke," Cory Frolik, Nov. 18, 2004].

Forchion's argument was simple. Since he is Rastafarian, smoking marijuana is a religious sacrament. As such, he was protected to do so on federal property thanks to the 1993 Religious Freedom Act. The judge, however, wasn't having it.

Less than two months later, however, Forchion has seemingly caught a break. His motion for a stay of sentence (a plea to the District Court to throw out his punishment while he goes through the appeal process) was granted by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell earlier this month.

Forchion authored the motion, which cites freedoms provided by the First Amendment, attacks U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Arnold Rapoport (he sentenced Forchion and co-defendant Patrick Duffy), and says he should be exempt from drug testing altogether. In short, the charges and probation conditions represent an unconstitutional religious persecution, maintains Forchion.

"I'm not creating something," explains Forchion. "I'm using what is already there."

In his Jan. 7 order, Dalzell wrote, "because staying Forchion's sentence will not endanger the public or seriously undermine any important public interest, the risk of irreparable injury to Forchion from being subjected to potentially invalid restraints on his liberty requires us to stay his sentence."

For Forchin, this is a massive relief. Though he didn't test positive for marijuana once during his probation, he said there was no way he was going to stop smoking the "sacrament." And because of that, he said he figured he'd ultimately pay for it. The appellate process is an uphill battle as it is, but coordinating it from behind bars would have severely complicated matters.

"It moves my case to court," says Forchion. "I don't fight it from a jail cell."

The appeals court is likely to rule within two months. Until then, Forchion knows what he'll be doing. "Praying RASTA STYLE".



"PR


FEDERAL APPEAL FILED



NJWEEDMAN'S FEDERAL APPEAL-BRIEF
of LIBTRATION CONVICTION


(3-8-2005)
____________________________

 This appeal touches on a couple of interesting
 DRUG WAR issue's
"Drug Testing, religious Brian-washing"
 
U.S. ATTORNEY'S 
BRIEF IN  FEDERAL APPEAL


(4-13-2005)
_______________________


The U.S. Attorney must fight to keep the
Status Quo
               
NJWEEDMAN'S REPLY BRIEF       
(4-22-2005)


________________
   
This is the reply to the U.S. Attorney's brief!                       


 JUDGE DALZELL'S DECISION
(July 22nd, 2005)
"no punishment"

Although Judge Dalzells order is dated July 22nd, neither defendant was informed of the decision until Feb. 1st, 2006 by way of Judge Rapoports (cowardly decision). I believe we weren't sent the order in a deliberate attempt to keep us from appealing in a timely manner. We plan on appealing both of these (non) decisions, I'm sure the U.S. Attorney will opposed our Nun Pro Tunc motion/appeal. Once again, I smoke marijuana in public and the court chooses not to punish me because of the Religious Defense I mount.

JUDGE DALZELL
JULY 22nd, 2005   
   

                                                                                   Judge Dalzell, affirms our Nov. 12th, 2004 convictions but vacates the sentences and remands the case back to Judge Rapoport to hear our "constitutional challenge" of the sentences. --  Judge Dalzell on page 9 of this decision say's nothing in our religion specifically calls for us to smoke marijuana at Independence Park so we weren't denied any religious freedom, he goes on to say we could smoke in any number of other locations; i.e. our homes, our houses of worship etc., etc.,. - Judge Dalzell chumped out of making a legal decision and instead made a political decision and then past the ball to Judge Rapoport.




JUDGE RAPOPORT
JANUARY 30th, 2006

(CLICK HERE TO READ IT- PDF)



Judge Rapoport, did  the most cowardly thing I ever witnessed a Judge doing. Judge Dalzell dumped the case back in his lap in a "chump move". Then he (Rapoport) totally avoided sentencing us at all. He "falsely claims" that we served our probations so there was no need to re-sentence us. So we end up with "CONVICTIONS" but both Judge Dalzell and Judge Rapoport acted as cowards and refused to sentence us.

                                                                                  

WE ARE GOING TO APPEAL THESE DECISIONS



Philadelphia City Paper


February 9-15, 2006

city beat

Two Minutes With...N.J. Weedman
By Brian Hickey

Last week, Ed "N.J. Weedman" Forchion learned that a federal judge vacated his 2004 conviction for toking marijuana during a series of protests near the Liberty Bell. The case had been remanded to Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport in July 2005 so he could consider the constitutionality of probation conditions that required Forchion—an avowed Rastafarian—to avoid marijuana, places at which it is smoked and people who smoke it, as well as to submit to drug testing and attend counseling. Contending the Jan. 30 order doesn't address those issues, Weedman says he's just begun to fight:

City Paper: Why not just quit while you're ahead?

Weedman: The judge avoided the issues I was trying to raise. We went there because we believe the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to federal property, and I think we're on point with the argument. They're just trying to sweep these legitimate issues under the rug. So, I'm going to appeal. Some people might laugh at that, but [this order] wasn't the purpose of our civil disobedience. What I wanted was a court case where I could air certain issues, like how AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and NA [Narcotics Anonymous] are, as some courts have already ruled, religious organizations. For people to be ordered to go there [as part of their probation] is a [RFRA] violation.

What time is it? 4:20

CP: So, is there any happiness at all?

W: Sure, because I'm not on federal probation now. Maybe I should take it as a victory, but I didn't only want a public airing, I wanted to win.

CP: Why should you be allowed to smoke marijuana at the Liberty Bell?

W: Everybody should be allowed to. If there's one place in America [to exercise your independence], it should be the Liberty Bell. I've gotten e-mails from a lot of people who've clandestinely smoked there, so maybe we're on our way to making it a Peace Pot Park!

CP: Think you'll be out there any time soon?

W: Oh yes. They're not getting out of it that easily. I'll be up there some time in the spring, maybe April 20.


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. EDWARD R. FORCHION, et al.

NO. 04-949-ALL

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

July 22, 2005, Decided

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Subsequent appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because appeal was not timely filed, United States v. Forchion, (3d Cir. Pa., Feb. 7, 2007)

COUNSEL: PATRICK L. DUFF, Defendant, Pro se, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

R. EDWARD FORCHION, Defendant, Pro se, BROWNS MILLS, NJ.

For USA, Plaintiff: KRISTIN R. HAYES, BERNADETTE MCKEON, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

JUDGES: Stewart Dalzell, J.

OPINION BY: Stewart Dalzell

OPINION

MEMORANDUM

Dalzell, J.

After Edward Forchion and Patrick Duff admitted that they smoked marijuana in Independence National Historical Park (the "Park"), a magistrate judge convicted them of possession of a controlled substance and sentenced them to probation. They now appeal both their convictions and their sentences, contending that the prosecution violated their rights to freely exercise their religion.

Factual Background

Forchion and Duff are Rastafarians. [Footnote1] Without ever applying for a permit, Forchion and Duff invited people to gather next to the Liberty Bell Center [Footnote 2] on December 20, 2003, March 20, 2004, and April 17, 2004. [Footnote 3] Advertisements described the events as "non[-]denominational," and the gatherings were intended to provide participants with a forum to exercise their "freedom of speech" and "freedom of religion" and to communicate a desire to "end the war on drugs and end the war in Iraq." Gov't App. 59, 75. Between about twenty and thirty people attended each of the gatherings.

Footnote 1: "Rastafarianism is a religion which proclaims the divinity of Haile Selassie, former Emperor of Ethiopia, and anticipates the eventual redemption of its adherents from the 'Babylon' of white oppression." Steele v. Blackman, 236 F.3d 130, 132 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001). Further,

Standard descriptions of the religion emphasize the use of marijuana in cultic ceremonies designed to bring the believer closer to the divinity and to enhance unity among believers. Functionally, marijuana - known as ganja in the language of the religion - operates as a sacrament with the power to raise the partakers above the mundane and to enhance their spiritual unity.

Id. (quoting United States v. Bauer, 84 F.3d 1549, 1556 (9th Cir. 1996)).

Footnote 2: Located within the Park, the Liberty Bell Center is situated in the block bounded by 5th, Market, 6th, and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. Independence National Historical Park is part of the national park system. See 16 U.S.C. 407m-407s.

Footnote 3: Each of these dates was the third Saturday of a month. Rastafarians observe the sabbath on Saturdays. Gov't App. 156-57.

On each of the three occasions, at about 4:20 p.m., [Footnote 4] Forchion and Duff openly smoked marijuana, sometimes even announcing their drug use with a bullhorn. As Rastafarians, they consider smoking marijuana to be a "sacrament," akin to a Christian's consumption of wine as part of communion. Forchion and Duff believed that "it was legal to smoke marijuana on federal property as long as it's in the course of [a] religious ceremony," and they smoked marijuana to demonstrate their religious freedom (or their alleged lack thereof). Gov't App. 121, 133. They also hoped that their actions would "bring attention to the larger issue of marijuana illegality." Id. at 76.

Footnote 4: For background on the significance of that time of day to members of the drug culture, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/420_(drug_culture).

Before their message could spark the public's imagination, Forchion and Duff caught the attention of park rangers who were observing their gatherings. On December 20, 2003, rangers issued citations for possession of a controlled substance [Footnote 5] to Forchion (028826) and Duff (257101). On March 20, 2004, Forchion received citations for possession of a controlled substance (257995) and interfering with agency functions [Footnote 6] (257996), and Duff received a citation for possession of a controlled substance (257040). Finally, on April 17, 2004, rangers cited Forchion for possession of a controlled substance (257037) and disorderly conduct [Footnote 7] (257038) and Duff for interfering with agency functions (256628).

Footnote 5: See 36 C.F.R. 2.35(b)(2) [hereinafter the "Regulation"]; see also 21 U.S.C. 812 (identifying marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance). Because possession of a controlled substance is punishable by "imprisonment not exceeding 6 months," 36 C.F.R. 1.3(a), it is a "Class B misdemeanor" and a "petty offense," 18 U.S.C. 3559(a)(7); 18 U.S.C. 19.

Footnote 6: See 36 C.F.R. 2.32(a)(1). Interfering with agency functions is a Class B misdemeanor and a petty offense. See supra note 5.

Footnote 7: See 36 C.F.R. 2.34(a). Like possession of a controlled substance and interfering with agency functions, disorderly conduct is a Class B misdemeanor and a petty offense. See supra note 5.

All of the charges were consolidated before Magistrate Judge Rapoport for a bench trial. In the midst of the trial, the Government withdrew the disorderly conduct charge against Forchion, see Gov't App. 164, and Judge Rapoport later acquitted him and Duff of interfering with agency functions, see id. at 184-87. Both Forchion and Duff admitted that they had smoked marijuana on the charged occasions, and they argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") [Footnote 8] permitted them to do so. Rejecting their RFRA defense, Judge Rapoport convicted Forchion and Duff on all counts of possessing a controlled substance. See id. at 182-84.

Footnote 8: See 42 U.S.C. 2000bb to 2000bb-4.

Judge Rapoport later imposed on each defendant a sentence of 12 months' imprisonment (which he suspended), 12 months' probation, a $ 10.00 special assessment, and a $ 150.00 fine. See id. at 37-48. [Footnote 9] In addition to thirteen standard conditions of probation, Judge Rapoport imposed two special conditions on Forchion and Duff. Among other things, the standard conditions prohibit them from possessing or using controlled substances, "frequenting" places where controlled substances are illegally used, associating with people engaged in criminal activity, and resisting certain specified attempts to confiscate "contraband" from their homes. See id. at 41, 47. The special conditions prohibit Forchion and Duff from staging a "protest/demonstration" without a permit and require them to participate in substance abuse testing and treatment. See id. at 42, 48.

Footnote 9: Although Judge Rapoport's remarks at the hearing could suggest that he intended to sentence Duff to only 6 months' probation, see Gov't App. 240-43, the written judgment confirms that Duff's sentence actually included 12 months' probation, see id. at 47.

Forchion and Duff filed this appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 58(g), and they now contend that Judge Rapoport erred in rejecting their RFRA defense and in imposing conditions of probation that burden their Rastafarian practices.

Analysis

A. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

Under 18 U.S.C. 3401 and Local Rule of Criminal Procedure 50.2(1)(a), the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to try Forchion and Duff on the petty offenses of which they were accused. We have jurisdiction over their appeal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3402 and 3742(h), and we apply the same standard of review to the magistrate judge's decision that the Court of Appeals would have applied to that decision had we rendered it. Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D). Thus, we shall review the magistrate judge's legal determinations de novo, see United States v. Ledesma-Cuesta, 347 F.3d 527, 530 (3d Cir. 2003), and we shall not disturb his factual findings unless clearly erroneous, see United States v. Helbling, 209 F.3d 226, 237 (3d Cir. 2000).

B. Convictions

Forchion and Duff argue that they should not have been convicted of possessing marijuana in a national park because they believe that their constitutional and statutory rights to practice Rastafarianism protect that conduct.

1. Constitutional Claim

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." U.S. Const. amend I. While the "door of the Free Exercise Clause stands tightly closed against any governmental regulation of religious beliefs as such," the government may regulate "certain overt acts prompted by religious beliefs or principles." Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 402-03, 10 L. Ed. 2d 965, 83 S. Ct. 1790, 1793 (1963). Thus, religiously neutral laws of general applicability do not violate the First Amendment, even if they prohibit some religious conduct. See Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 108 L. Ed. 2d 876, 110 S. Ct. 1595 (1990). Since the Regulation is a religiously neutral law of general applicability, Forchion and Duff's constitutional claim must fail.

2. RFRA Claim

In response to Smith, Congress enacted RFRA, which provides in relevant part:

(a) In general.

Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Exception.

Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1(a), (b). [Footnote 10]

Footnote 10: In City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 138 L. Ed. 2d 624, 117 S. Ct. 2157 (1997), the Supreme Court held that Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment did not authorize Congress to apply RFRA to the states. The courts of appeals appear split on the question of whether Congress could constitutionally apply RFRA to the federal government. Compare Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210, 1220-21 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that RFRA is constitutional as applied in the federal realm); Kikumura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 958-60 (10th Cir. 2001) (same); Christians v. Crystal Evangelical Free Church (In re Young), 141 F.3d 854, 858-59 (8th Cir. 1998) (same) with United States v. Indianapolis Baptist Temple, 224 F.3d 627, 629 n.1 (7th Cir. 2000) (recognizing "doubt" whether RFRA could be constitutionally applied to the federal government); La Voz Radio de la Communidad v. FCC, 223 F.3d 313, 319 (6th Cir. 2000) (expressing "doubt" that RFRA is constitutional as applied to the federal government). Without mentioning the unsettled state of the law, the parties assume that RFRA applies to the federal government. Given their readiness to accept RFRA's constitutionality in this context, we shall assume that RFRA does apply to the federal government.

Our Court of Appeals evaluates RFRA claims using a two-step analysis. "First, the claimant must demonstrate a 'substantial burden' on [his] exercise of [his] religious beliefs." Adams v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 170 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir. 1999). While our Court of Appeals has not defined the concept of "substantial burden," it has suggested that pre-Smith caselaw would inform whatever definition it may ultimately adopt. See id. at 176-78. Looking to that body of precedent, we hold that, in cases like this one, the government substantially burdens religion when it "put[s] substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs," Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718, 67 L. Ed. 2d 624, 101 S. Ct. 1425, 1432 (1981), or requires an individual to choose between "either abandoning his religious principle or facing criminal prosecution," Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 605, 6 L. Ed. 2d 563, 81 S. Ct. 1144, 1147 (1961). If a claimant can show that the government substantially burdens his religion, then, in the second step of the RFRA analysis, "the government bears the burden of proving that enforcement of the law is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling state interest." In re Grand Jury, 171 F.3d 826, 829 (3d Cir. 1999). [Footnote 11]

Footnote 11: Before Judge Rapoport, and in their briefs, the parties cite the three-prong test of United States v. Meyers, 95 F.3d 1475 (10th Cir. 1996), as the relevant legal standard that a claimant must meet before the Government bears any burden of proving that a law is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling interest. Under that test, a claimant must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the law "(1) substantially burden[s], (2) a religious belief rather than a philosophy or way of life, (3) which belief is sincerely held" by the claimant. See id. at 1482. Though the Meyers test may not be inconsistent with the law of this circuit, we prefer not to apply it because our Court of Appeals has not adopted it and the law of this circuit offers sufficient direction for us to resolve this appeal without seeking guidance from other circuits.

It appears that Judge Rapoport may have applied the Meyers test when he considered whether defendants established their RFRA defense. Assuming that the magistrate judge did apply Meyers, and assuming that it was error to apply that decision rather than on-point Third Circuit precedent, the error would have been harmless because Judge Rapoport made sufficient factual findings for us to conclude that he would have rejected defendants' RFRA claim even if he had applied the law of this circuit. See Gov't App. 182-84.

Forchion and Duff admit that they possessed marijuana in Independence National Historical Park in violation of 36 C.F.R. 2.35(b)(2). Nevertheless, they submit that they should not have been convicted because they believe that they established a RFRA defense. After a lengthy bench trial at which defendants had ample opportunity to prove their RFRA claim, Judge Rapoport stated:

. . . I don't know that there's any burden on either of these defendants to prohibit them from practicing their religion[.] It just . . . prohibit[s] them from practicing it in the park because[,] under [the] code of federal regulation[s,] it's clearly prohibited. What stops you from doing whatever you want to do in the privacy of home, with friends[?] Nothing. You know, if you're that committed to practicing your religion[,] getting closer to God by using [the] marijuana [that] you call a sacrament, what stops you? . . . .

. . . .

. . . To suggest that somehow your religion is seriously impeded because you can't do it at Independence Park is simply an argument without any basis as far as I'm concerned.

Gov't App. 182-84. We read these statements as a factual finding that the regulatory prohibition on possessing marijuana in the Park does not substantially burden Forchion and Duff in the exercise of their Rastafarianism.

Defendants do not cite any record evidence that would call Judge Rapoport's finding into question, and Forchion's own description of Rastafarianism supports it. For example, Forchion admitted that he could not identify any document suggesting that Rastafarianism required its adherents to smoke marijuana in the Park. Gov't App. 163. When his lawyer asked him how the criminalization of marijuana possession in federal parks affected his religious practices, Forchion took issue only with the government's power to seize marijuana and did not claim that possessing marijuana in the Park was part of practicing Rastafarianism. See id. at 148-49. Duff had the opportunity to point out additional ways in which the Regulation burdened his religious practices, but he did not identify any other burdens. In short, neither Forchion nor Duff submitted any evidence that Rastafarianism required them to possess marijuana in the Park.

At most, defendants' testimony suggests that Rastafarians cannot practice their religion without some freedom to possess marijuana, but the Regulation criminalizes the possession of marijuana only in national parks. Since the Regulation does not forbid Forchion and Duff from possessing marijuana outside of national parks, it creates no impediment to the free exercise of their faith in their homes, their houses of worship, or other non-federal locations. With so many alternative places to practice Rastafarianism, the ban on marijuana possession in national parks does not force Forchion and Duff to choose between abandoning their faith and facing criminal prosecution. Thus, Judge Rapoport did not clearly err in finding that the Regulation did not substantially burden their religious beliefs.

Glossing over the record evidence, Forchion and Duff cite three appellate decisions for the supposed legal principle that RFRA permits Rastafarians to possess marijuana on federal lands. None of those cases, however, stands for so sweeping a proposition. To the extent that they are at all helpful to Forchion and Duff, those decisions are distinguishable from this case.

In United States v. Bauer, 84 F.3d 1549 (9th Cir. 1996), three Rastafarians were convicted of simple possession of marijuana and other offenses, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana. The defendants argued that RFRA permitted them to possess and use marijuana for religious purposes, but the district court, applying pre-RFRA precedent, repeatedly refused to allow them to present that defense to the jury, even though it found that "the challenged law substantially burdened the free exercise of the Rastafarian religion." Id. at 1557. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that, having identified a substantial burden on religion, RFRA required the district court to consider whether the government had selected the least restrictive means to advance a compelling interest. Since the district court did not perform that second step of the RFRA analysis, the court of appeals reversed the defendants' simple possession convictions and remanded the case for another trial where defendants could present their RFRA defense. See id. at 1559.

While Bauer certainly recognizes the possibility that Rastafarians may be able to establish a RFRA defense to charges of simple possession, it does not hold that Rastafarians are free to possess marijuana wherever they choose. Indeed, Bauer did not even hold that the criminalization of marijuana possession always substantially burdens Rastafarian practices. No party challenged the district court's factual finding on that point, so the court of appeals had no occasion to consider the issue. In short, the magistrate judge's finding that the Regulation does not substantially burden the exercise of Rastafarianism is not inconsistent with the Ninth Circuit's decision in Bauer.

A few years after Bauer, the Ninth Circuit held that a Rastafarian could not assert a RFRA defense to a charge of importing a controlled substance into Guam. See Guam v. Guerrero, 290 F.3d 1210, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2002). Satisfied that "Rastafarianism does not require importation of a controlled substance," id. at 1223, the court of appeals concluded that the statute at issue did not substantially burden the defendant's right to freely exercise his religion and that, therefore, RFRA provided no defense to the importation charge. Apart from a brief discussion of Bauer, Guerrero does not address the availability of a RFRA defense to a charge of marijuana possession, so it is inapposite to this case.

Finally, Forchion and Duff cite O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal v. Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 973 (10th Cir. 2004) (en banc), cert. granted, 125 S. Ct. 1846, 161 L. Ed. 2d 723 (2005) [hereinafter UDV]. In that case, UDV members sought an injunction to prevent the United States from "relying on the Controlled Substances Act . . . to prohibit the sacramental use of hoasca." See id. at 974-75. [Footnote 12] Although the Government opposed the request for an injunction, it "did not dispute . . . that [the law] imposed a substantial burden on the UDV's sincere exercise of religion." Id. at 1004. The district court ultimately granted the injunction, and the Government appealed. The procedural and substantive issues that UDV raised deeply divided the Tenth Circuit, but none of the judges' opinions analyze whether federal law substantially burdened the UDV because the Government had already conceded that it did so. Since UDV simply does not discuss whether criminalizing the possession of controlled substances substantially burdens religions that use those substances sacramentally, it offers no support for defendants' argument that criminalizing marijuana possession substantially burdens Rastafarians.

Footnote 12: UDV, "a syncretic religion of Christian theology and indigenous South American beliefs, was founded in Brazil in 1961 by a rubber-tapper who discovered the sacramental use of hoasca (the Portuguese transliteration of ayahuasca) in the Amazon rainforests." O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal v. Ashcroft, 342 F.3d 1170, 1174 (10th Cir. 2003). "Hoasca is made by brewing together two indigenous Brazilian plants," one of which contains DMT, a Schedule I controlled substance. See id. at 1175.

To sum up, none of the cases on which Forchion and Duff rely suggest that RFRA creates a right for Rastafarians to possess marijuana on federal lands. While some Rastafarians eventually may establish a RFRA defense to a charge of marijuana possession in a national park, Forchion and Duff have failed to do so in this case because they did not prove that the Regulation substantially burdens the exercise of Rastafarianism. We shall, therefore, affirm their convictions.

C. Sentences

In addition to the challenge to their convictions, Forchion and Duff also contend that some of their conditions of probation violate their right to practice Rastafarianism. Specifically, they take issue with the conditions that prohibit them from (1) possessing or using controlled substances [Footnote 13]; (2) frequenting places where controlled substances are used illegally [Footnote 14]; and (3) associating with people who are engaged in criminal activity or who have been convicted of a felony (without permission from a probation officer). [Footnote 15] Defendants also challenge the conditions that require them to (4) permit the probation officers who visit their homes to seize "contraband" in plain view [Footnote 16]; (5) submit to substance abuse testing [Footnote 17]; and (6) participate in substance abuse treatment. [Footnote 18] See Gov't App. 41-42, 47-48. 19 According to Forchion and Duff, these six conditions of probation burden their exercise of Rastafarianism in violation of both the Free Exercise Clause and RFRA.

Footnote 13: Standard Condition # 7. This condition is a mandatory condition of probation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3563(a)(3), (5).

Footnote 14: Standard Condition # 8.

Footnote 15: Standard Condition # 9.

Footnote 16: Standard Condition # 10.

Footnote 17: Second Special Condition. This condition is a mandatory condition of probation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3563(a)(5).

Footnote 18: Second Special Condition.

Footnote 19: Forchion and Duff also object to an alleged condition that they not "participate and/or attend any marijuana related events/functions" and not "enter[] the Independent [sic] National Park." See Appellants' Brs. at 15. Judge Rapoport imposed no such condition. While he required them to "abide by all the rules and regulations of the Park Service," including those requiring permits, see Gov't App. 42, 48, that condition did not prevent them from entering the Park or from holding additional gatherings, so long as they comply with the standard permit requirements.

Judge Rapoport did not consider whether the six conditions at issue violate the First Amendment and/or RFRA. Moreover, because proceedings before him terminated as soon as he had imposed those conditions, Forchion and Duff have not had any opportunity to introduce evidence to support their constitutional and statutory claims. We believe therefore that the most prudent course is to vacate defendants' sentences and remand this matter to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.

On remand, the magistrate judge should address the thorny constitutional [Footnote 20] and statutory questions that the six conditions raise, if he intends to reimpose them. Of course, if he intends to modify defendants' sentences to alleviate any potential burden that the conditions could place on the exercise of Rastafarianism, the magistrate judge need not dwell on many of these issues. [Footnote 21]

Footnote 20: Smith does not absolve the magistrate judge of responsibility for considering any potential constitutional claims because sentences are not neutral laws of general applicability. Sentencing involves individualized decision-making similar to the determinations to which appellate courts apply strict scrutiny. See Smith, 494 U.S. at 882-85, 110 S. Ct. 1602-03 (discussing Supreme Court cases that applied the Sherbert test to invalidate government actions); see also Blackhawk v. Pennsylvania, 381 F.3d 202, 206-09 (3d Cir. 2004) (summarizing recent Free Exercise jurisprudence of the Third Circuit).

Footnote 21: Four of the six challenged conditions are not mandatory, so the magistrate judge may decline to reimpose them, so long as his decision would not be an abuse of discretion. Under 18 U.S.C. 3563(a) -- a neutral law of general applicability -- the two remaining conditions are mandatory, so the magistrate judge must reimpose them unless he first finds that RFRA supersedes 3563 (a). Compare United States v. Valrey, No. 96-549Z (W.D. Or. Feb. 22, 2000) (modifying conditions of supervised release to permit a Rastafarian to use and possess marijuana exclusively in connection with his religion) with United States v. Israel, 317 F.3d 768 (7th Cir. 2003) (affirming revocation of a Rastafarian's supervised release after he violated his release conditions by using marijuana).

Conclusion

Forchion and Duff maintain that Rastafarians are free to smoke marijuana in national parks, but the First Amendment does not guarantee any such right. To the extent that RFRA creates a potential defense to the possession charges of which they were convicted, Forchion and Duff failed to establish that defense because they did not prove that the criminalization of marijuana possession in Independence National Historical Park substantially burdens the exercise of Rastafarianism. Though their failure to establish a RFRA defense requires us to affirm their convictions, we shall vacate their sentences and remand this case for further proceedings because the magistrate judge did not consider whether six of the probation conditions that he imposed violate the Constitution and/or RFRA.

An appropriate Order follows.

ORDER

AND NOW, this 22nd day of July, 2005, upon consideration of the appellants' and appellee's briefs, the appellants' replies, and Forchion's motion for evidentiary hearing and funds for expert religious witness (docket entry # 37), and in accordance with the accompanying Memorandum, it is hereby ORDERED that:

1. Forchion's motion for evidentiary hearing and funds for expert religious witness is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to its reassertion before the magistrate judge [Footnote 1];

2. The convictions of Edward R. Forchion and Patrick Duff are AFFIRMED;

3. The sentences of Edward R. Forchion and Patrick Duff are VACATED;

4. This case is REMANDED to the Honorable Arnold C. Rapoport for further proceedings consistent with our Memorandum;

5. Paragraph 2 of our Order of January 7, 2005 (docket entry # 19) and paragraph 6 of our Order of January 18, 2005 (docket entry # 21) are VACATED; and

6. The Clerk shall CLOSE this case statistically.

Footnote 1: Since Forchion did not make this request of the magistrate judge, it would be inappropriate for us to consider it for the first time on appeal.

BY THE COURT:

Stewart Dalzell, J.

 

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