Trading Jersey tomatoes for Colorado buds

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Diane Fornbacher, of Collingswood, N.J., wants to give Colorado a try after years of working to reform marijuana laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Diane Fornbacher, of Collingswood, N.J., wants to give Colorado a try after years of working to reform marijuana laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Posted: January 10, 2014

THE GRASS ISN'T greener a mile-high up in Colorado, but now that it's legal there, a longtime local marijuana activist is hitting the road with a heavy heart and heading west.

Diane Fornbacher, 36, of Collingswood, N.J., has been trying to change marijuana laws since she got busted for possession as a freshman at Penn State about 18 years ago. Today, Fornbacher's married with two sons and a station wagon in her driveway, active in her community, she said, all while serving on the national board of directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, campaigning for medical marijuana in New Jersey and beyond, and writing about all things marijuana on her online magazine, Ladybud.

That fight has taken a toll, she said, including a visit from New Jersey's Department of Children and Families last year over what she said was her son's mention of hemp in school. So she's moving to Colorado, where recreational use is legal and retail sales are booming, to take a job trimming and cultivating plants at the 3D Cannabis Center in Denver.

"The East Coast isn't just losing a cannabis activist. I'm a community activist and I don't want to leave," Fornbacher said Tuesday afternoon inside her home.

In New Jersey, Fornbacher said, the "complex" post-traumatic stress disorder she suffers from years of abuse as a child doesn't qualify under the state's strict medical-marijuana laws passed in 2011. "The law is nowhere near where it should have been. Even if you're on your deathbed, you still have to jump through flaming hoops," Fornbacher said. "I fought for a very long time. I need to keep my family safe, and I don't qualify under the law."

There's a constant fear, Fornbacher said, that she'll lose her kids and her freedom in New Jersey over a plant she considers to be her medicine.

"As a parent, I'm afraid to keep it in my house," she said.

Fornbacher, who was named a "Freedom Fighter" by High Times magazine in 1999, recently raised $2,000 at GoFundMe.com for relocation costs and hopes to be settled in Colorado by this spring.

"I'm hoping to be there by 4/20 [April 20]," she said.

Fellow marijuana activist Ed "N.J. Weedman" Forchion also left New Jersey for a more marijuana-friendly state, California.

"I applaud her," Forchion said of Fornbacher yesterday from California. "It's just a shame New Jerseyans have to move to be free."

Forchion is serving a staggered jail sentence for possession and distribution in New Jersey that allows him to leave jail and fly back to California for medical treatment of tumors.

Some accused Fornbacher of "bailing" on the battle in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, she said, but fighting for marijuana reform while raising a family here is too risky.

"I don't want to leave," she said. "I fully intended to raise my kids here and make a difference."


On Twitter: @JasonNark

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