By Penny Ray
Prosecutors say complaints from the community regarding constant foot traffic in and out of Ed Forchion’s businesses sparked a two-month investigation that resulted in his property being raided Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors also say they received information from multiple sources that Forchion, a pot legalization activist known as NJ Weedman, was distributing marijuana from out of the premises.
The Mercer County Narcotics Task Force raided Forchion’s businesses, which includes a restaurant, religious sanctuary and tobacco shop, on East State Street and allegedly seized more than $19,000 in marijuana.
During the raid, 11 people, including Forchion, were arrested for various offenses. Some were apprehended in connection with outstanding warrants, and others were charged with new drug offenses.
When police searched the building, they allegedly found 56 grams of marijuana and 32 grams of edible marijuana candy in the sanctuary, more than a pound of marijuana butter in the kitchen, as well as ten grams of marijuana and a large amount of drug paraphernalia in the tobacco shop.
Police also seized $85 that was in a jar that read, “Nothing is free donate.”
Prosecutors say police also found 1,055 grams of marijuana, five grams of hashish, five ounces of promethazine, digital scales and drug packaging materials in an office, where they also found $60 in cash, which was seized.
Police allegedly found an additional 28 grams of marijuana in the rear yard of the property.
Prosecutors say Shawn Hurley was arrested after police saw him toss a deck of heroin off of the roof when the raid began, and that Tomas Geronimo was arrested for distributing marijuana during the course of the investigation.
Police also seized a Toyota Matrix and two other vehicles that were parked outside of the premises during the raid, along with $330 that Forchion had on his person.
Prosecutors say police also raided a South Olden Avenue home in Hamilton in connection to the investigation and found seven grams of marijuana in the garage and additional drug paraphernalia throughout the residence. The homeowner, 52-year-old Sharon Shelton, was arrested when she arrived home during the search.
Police say the estimated street value of the seized drugs is $19,270.
Forchion, 51, is charged with several drug possession and distribution offenses; his bail was set at $50,000 cash or bond.
Geronimo, 27, is charged with marijuana possession and distribution.
Hurley, 45, is charged with heroin possession.
Shelton is charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, Nhuygel Green, 52, Gregory Peterson, 20, Philippe Dume, 28, Alfonso Clark, 35, Brian Jones, 46, Roderick McKinney, 39, and Timothy Williams, 27, were all arrested in connection with outstanding warrants.
The raid was not the first time local authorities enforced the law at NJWeedman’s Joint. On March 5, police shut down the Joint around 2:10 a.m, for violation of city code. During that incident, more than a dozen Trenton police officers arrived at Liberty Bell Temple III asking the congregants inside the sanctuary to vacate the premises. Forchion later said the incident violated his First Amendment rights.