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Collingswood Cannabis Activist to Turn Over New Leaf in Denver

Drug war veteran Diane Fornbacher says her family is headed for greener pastures in Colorado, where she can continue her activism at the forefront of the new marijuana economy.

Fornbacher, seen here speaking at the Boston Freedom Rally. Credit: Ken Wolski.
Fornbacher, seen here speaking at the Boston Freedom Rally. Credit: Ken Wolski.

It's not any one thing that is behind Diane Fornbacher's decision to leave Collingswood, the town she and her family have called home for nearly a decade.

It's a chance for new opportunities; a fear of becoming another casualty of the drug war; a desire to put her heart more closely behind the movement for which her lifestyle publication, LadyBud, has become a burgeoning mouthpiece.

Activist, organizer, drug warrior—Fornbacher is equally comfortable with all those titles. 

But it's her job as a mom that Fornbacher said sealed the decision to move.

"I’d like to stay here, but it’s not a healthy place yet," she said. 

Compassionate care laws in New Jersey are a far cry from addressing the very serious needs of those patients who could be helped by medical marijuana, she said—including children like Vivian Wilson, whose Scotch Plains family is headed for Colorado, too.

"It’s nearly impossible for people who have very serious illnesses to get through the medical marijuana program in New Jersey," Fornbacher said.

"For hundreds of thousands of people to have their lives ruined for having a very innocuous and helpful plant, it’s inhumane."

In addition to her personal politics, her career path, and the cultural change she is working to engender, Fornbacher said she herself would be a candidate for a compassionate care prescription in other parts of the country.

"I have complex PTSD, but I don’t qualify [for medical marijuana use] in New Jersey," she said. 

"I also won’t have to worry about it now that recreational licenses are open [in Colorado]." 

'It's about freedom'

In keeping with her pioneer spirit, Fornbacher will be headed to the 3D Cannabis Center, which she said was the first storefront in the country to retail legal, recreational cannabis. 

"I go there to contribute however I can to the continued growth of the movement," she said. "I’m not too proud to sweep the floors, trim plants, help patients, help recreational customers."

But Fornbacher does not shy away from the larger feeling that her personal moment of opportunity "is really about the redemption of freedom in our country. 

"It is the redemption of people’s medical freedom," she said. "It’s about the freedom of choice. It’s about freedom of speech." 

Fornbacher has put her own freedom on the line countless times as an activist—and once, unsuspectingly, as a parent, when she got a visit from child protective services after her son talked about hemp in his Collingswood elementary school.

"They came to my house because my son mentioned that hemp would solve all of the Earth Day problems at school," Fornbacher told Huffington Post Live over the summer

"Because I don't lie to him, he said, 'Hemp is like marijuana but you can't get high from it'. They heard 'marijuana' and generally assumed that I was neglecting my children," she said.

"I really tried to stay as long as I could [in New Jersey]," Fornbacher said. "But when they came to my house for hemp, it broke my heart."

Billion-dollar baby

Regardless of your political bent, there is no debate that marijuana is the new cash crop of the 21st century. 

In an interview with Fox Business News, ArcView Group CEO Troy Dayton cited Mark Twain in lauding the growth opportunities for investment in cannabis.

"When there's a gold rush, it's a good time to be in the pick-and-shovel business," Dayton quipped. "This is definitely going to be the next great American industry." 

Others have wasted no time cashing in on stoner marketing jargon (see: Spirit Airlines, whose invitation to "get mile high" with fares that are "barely legal in some states") in bumping the new economy.

According to Betty Aldworth, Deputy Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the national market for legal marijuana is projected to reach $2.34 billion in 2014. 

Aldworth forecasts half a billion dollars of that will originate in Colorado, where sales of medical and "adult-use" marijuana alone could hit $400-450 million this year.

Numbers like those are difficult to ignore, and that's why states like Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, and Massachusetts "are all working their ways towards implementing regulated markets for adult-use marijuana in the next year," Aldworth said, with Alaska, California, Arizona, and Maine to test ballot initiatives "sometime between now and 2016."

The benefits of a legal marijuana industry don't only extend to medical patients or recreational adult consumers,  Aldworth said, but also can serve to boost employment numbers and tax revenues.

Aldworth offered kind words for Fornbacher, whom she described as "standing up for patients and marijuana policy reform despite the risks to her personally for a very long time. 

"Her passion is unbounded," Aldworth said. "You all are losing someone special."

'My work is far from over, and I will come home'

Fornbacher said that even though her work is taking her across the country, she won't be a stranger to the town in which she has built so many lasting memories with her family.

"I will miss all of the festivals," she said. "I will miss walking around town. I will miss being friends with the people I buy my food from." 

Although the legal landscape for marijuana use is changing in places like Colorado and Washington, "just because cannabis is legal doesn’t mean the drug war is over," Fornbacher said. 

"I’m a believer in overall drug policy reform," she said. "I believe we need these harm reduction programs. These are separate from cannabis, but we need choice. 

"My work is far from over, and I will come home."

caryle tracy January 10, 2014 at 10:53 PM
Diane, Best Wishes and Much Abundant Luck to You and Your Family on this newest path....may You All always be in excellent health!!
caryle tracy January 10, 2014 at 11:09 PM
and Monko, Thank You for observing the differences in the comments between those signing with their authentic autograph, and those hiding in anonymity (whether actual or relative)......... How interesting is it when people whose remarks cannot be identified back to them just many times do-a-dump-and-run by just flinging out uninformed, rude, obnoxious, sometimes abusive statements? |||||...What would it take to change this?
Sean Andrew January 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM
It would take that we follow these rules of thumb regardless of what side of the argument we're on .... When you praise the mayor, sign your name. When you attack him, do the same. When you praise the police, sign your name, When you attack them, do the same. Individuals, other elected officials, schools, ideas ... follow the same guidelines. It's really not that hard.
Kevin January 12, 2014 at 10:25 PM
Here is the reason I do not sign my last name. Because many of my opinions do not march in line with those on this board or other news websites. I am rather cynical by nature, and view the in very binary terms: black/white, yes/no, etc. I have seen how people get attacked online when they stray from the flock regarding their posted opinions. Being such a small town, my family does not need get the stink eye because of some of my opinions. It's not worth it. For others I don't blame them for not signing their own last names for fear of retribution from an elected official, police, or any other public official based on what they wrote if they self identify. The smaller the town, the worse the retribution usually is. Like I said I am cynical by nature, and have seen that type of retribution first hand.
Sean Andrew January 13, 2014 at 08:27 AM
Kudos, Kevin. Couldn't agree more. In due time, maybe these types of smack and attack web sites will go by the wayside. I notice on some sites you now MUST sign in via Facebook. Not perfect, but perhaps a step toward personal accountability. Oh wait, this is America! Personal accountability? What's that?

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