Updated at the bottom with confirmation from the DEA. First posted at 7:03 a.m. Wednesday.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration played The Grinch when it raided a Hollywood dispensary popular with celebs in the days before Christmas, its owner, NJ Weedman, tells LA Weekly.
The DEA cleared the place out, seized marijuana, drained his bank accounts and shuttered his South L.A. grow operation, says the man also known as Ed Forchion.
We tried to get a comment from the DEA but were unsuccessful. Weedman says it all went down …
… Dec. 13 at 11 a.m., when he was pulled over by the LAPD and the DEA was there to help.
He says he was taken to his Liberty Bell Temple II pot shop in Hollywood in cuffs as agents raided the place and seized everything in sight:
It was a total smashing. They smashed all my cameras, they took all my computers. They smashed up my house. They took paperwork. They thought I still had an apartment in the Valley; they went there too and found out I didn't live there anymore. They went to my bank. They seized everything.
His South L.A. grow warehouse was hit too. He says an agent told him he would be in deep shit if they found 1,000 plants or more. As it was, they took 600, he said.
While Weedman says he was shown a search warrant, he says he's still not exactly clear why he was raided and that he has been informed of zero charges or indictments.
His theory is that having his face in the news in New Jersey set off the feds at the behest of former federal prosecutor Chris Christie, now governor of the Garden State.
Weedman is currently fighting a charge of one count of felony possession with intent to distribute after he was busted with a pound of weed in his trunk in his native New Jersey.
He commutes between the east and west coasts.
Weedman has been making a mockery of prosecutors there and said he plans a controversial defense called “jury nullification”, in which a New Jersey jury can actually disagree with a law, not just rule according to it.
In New Jersey we have Governor Christie, who has been blocking implementation of the medical marijuana law. He used to be a U.S. Attorney. I've been using myself as an example to New Jersey, and I'm more than like just a little hero to people.
He says it's the fourth time his L.A. dispensaries have been raided by either the DEA or the LAPD (or both). Normally, Weedman says, he would just reopen. But this time they got him good:
Each time they came they raided us and we opened back up the next day. This time they were very thorough and they hit everything. I don't have rent money. I'm reaching out to all my supporters asking if anyone can help me with rent.
The raid came as Weedman was planning on opening two more dispensaries, plans that have now been put on hold.
As it was, his Liberty Bell Temple II would not have been eligible to stay open under the city's latest pot-shop ordinance, which he and other operators seemed to openly defy anyway.
Weedman has been a publicity magnet and has even sued the city of Los Angeles for trying to put Liberty out of business. In the suit he claimed religious freedom and said smoking weed was part of his Rastafarian custom. Liberty was equated with church.
More recently he tried to officially change his name to NJWeedman.com only to be denied by a judge who said people can't have “.com” names.
This latest headline has put 17 people who work at the dispensary out of work, he told Philadelphia Weekly.
Weedman says he came to L.A. years ago with $500 and a dream.
I wanted to be one of those guys who came to L.A. and struck gold.
The medical marijuana business has been good to him. But now he says he's not sure if it's time to hang up the old scale.
“I feel angry,” he says. “I feel mad.”
[Update at 12:05 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29]: DEA spokeswoman Sarah E. Pullen sent us this terse confirmation:
On Dec. 13th DEA served a federal search warrant at 5642 Hollywood Blvd as part of an on-going investigation and no charges have been filed at this time.
She said it was possible that the U.S. Attorney's Office will unseal the warrant, which would make it available to us. We have a call into the office.