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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."

Ken Wolski January 08, 2014 at 07:11 AM
I'm sorry to see you leave, Diane, but I understand. In many ways, NJ is not a healthful place to raise a family. I wish you health and success in Colorado. (And thanks for the photo credit!)
C.V. January 08, 2014 at 03:31 PM
thank god, honestly. Her narcissism was choking this town, and she was one of the most superficial people i ever met. good riddance !
sara January 08, 2014 at 04:02 PM
why is this news?? good,get her away from our children! buh bye!
Shannon McGill January 08, 2014 at 05:01 PM
Diane has done a lot of good for others. She is constantly raising money for folks in dire straits & donating her time, money, & energy to the sick, poor, & disenfranchised. Sara, I'm curious as to how you feel Diane's presence in our community endangers your children. Or was that just a mean-spirited dig toward an honorable person you don't even know? So many haters out there, I just don't get it. Keep on keeping on, Diane. Apparently small-minded people will continue to hate on you no matter how much you change the world for the better.
Brandon Krenzler January 08, 2014 at 05:45 PM
C.V. and Sara you strike me as people of small minds. CV i am curious to know where you attained your psych degree to earn the right to diagnose someone with any condition whatsover. I have no medical degree but your commentary is flecked with narcissism- And Sara- if only you would understand the importance of her crusade- and how it would positively affect your child for her to continue her work in New Jersey, you should reconsider your stance and bid her a fine farewell- this is obviously considered news because your own communities feel her work is valuable and are giving thanks. Come West Diane, there is much work to be done! We welcome you with open arms.
Sean Andrew January 08, 2014 at 06:58 PM
Don't know the lady, but I do wonder why this is news let alone "Breaking News"?
Vanessa Waltz January 08, 2014 at 07:02 PM
CV and Sara, I am guessing you don't really know Diane. When I moved to New Jersey during a very difficult time in my life, Diane was the one person who reached out to me, made me feel like a member of the community, and eventually became a very close and supportive friend. Diane's compassion is a true asset to any community - during Hurricane Sandy, she tirelessly collected donations of food, clothing, diapers, baby food, and other desperately needed supplies and organized support for her neighbors. This is just one of many examples of Diane's compassion, motivation for action, and ability to selflessly help others. Anyone who believes she is narcissistic does not truly know what a humble soul she is. Perhaps you are intimidated by a strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and fight for justice and meaningful change. I hope you will open your minds and realize what a beautiful human you are publicly disparaging.
Mitch Earleywine January 08, 2014 at 08:54 PM
Diane will be Colorado's gain!
Joseph Edward Bonaparte Junior January 08, 2014 at 11:46 PM
As someone who does not use marijuana for medical or recreational use, I can vouch for Diane's positive impact on this town. She is the founder of a group that brought a lot of people together. At least two key members of the first Bikeshare fundraiser were brought into the fold at a lunch that she organized. This is news not only because this is a valuable member of our small community here. This is news because she is a national figure in her arena and her movement is front page news these days.
Kevin January 09, 2014 at 07:36 AM
This is less breaking news than a neighbors dog getting lost. Thanks for your service to the country, but bye bye. Enjoy your legal pot.
Tracy Farquhar January 09, 2014 at 08:10 AM
Diane, I wish you love, happiness and peace. Remember that when people criticize, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them and their world view. Hugs and gratitude to you!
Monko January 09, 2014 at 08:31 AM
Anyone notice how the positive comments have all been posted by actual people with first and last names, while the haters remain relatively anonymous? If narcissism is what it takes to accomplish what Diane has, not just in drug reform, but in community building, I wish we could all acquire a little more. To have members of this community, that she's always tried to bring together in a positive way, compare her to a lost dog or a suggest that she's a threat to our children shows just how much ignorance and hate we're capable of, and why we need more people like her striving against that attitude. Good luck, Diane, sorry to see you go. Kevin Monko.
Kevin January 09, 2014 at 08:56 AM
Overreacting Monko and inaccurate. I compared the newsworthiness of the story (not Diane) to that of a lost dog. If Diane was lost, that is a very news worthy article, and should move well beyond The Patch. People move in and out of Collingswood on a daily basis. No reason to have a profile on her just because she is moving to Denver so she can legally buy pot.
Giovanni Caffarella January 09, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Howdy all! Well, this is one time I really will loose my cool. To have people say negative things about Diane is no surprise but to have what I would assume people of Collingswood to say something of that caliber to what I believe is a LEGEND of our town. Yes, I am aware that not all of Collingswood can or ever will agree on anything. But I will say this: there is so many great people who do great things here in our town whether you like it or not, and I happen to be one of those people as well. No, this is breaking news to the people who have loved and will continue to love her when she is gone. I seriously believe in my heart she is an awesome soul. If anyone has a problem with that, well you have a problem with me! Nuff said!
Kevin January 09, 2014 at 11:30 AM
And the people who loved her will continue to love her and remain in touch with her. I am sure she is a lovely person, but not news worthy in my opinion.
Monko January 09, 2014 at 12:01 PM
I hear you, Kevin, and that's an understandable opinion, but she's actually had more impact on the community than a lost dog, and I think the Patch does a pretty good job of covering not just the most obviously newsworthy stories, but some of the more minor events that may touch the community, like a lost dog, the unfortunate closing of a local business, or the departure of someone whose presence may be missed by a segment of the population. People also die every day, might not be newsworthy, but obituaries aren't going away either. And I sincerely apologize if I misinterpreted your "Bye bye, enjoy your legal pot" as a little snarky, not simply a criticism of the editor's determination of what's newsworthy.
Giovanni Caffarella January 09, 2014 at 03:19 PM
While I do believe that I can not expect every body to agree about the newsworthiness of Diane, I can only say that if I was in the newspapers 7-8 times for various things I love such as bikes, craft beer, the parklet, someone who is a HERO of Collingswood who has helped the community in so many ways, man, she is worthy of it all. I am sorry if I point out, it makes me sad that people who say something mean to a woman, I may be a metal dude and still young, but man I sure treat women with the utmost respect. Call it what you will but that is what I think anyway... Diane, I will always be thankful for what you have done in life! Please take my energy and do well!
Sean Andrew January 09, 2014 at 03:53 PM
Diane, thanks so much for all you have done. Apparently, your move is quite newsworthy. Good luck! BTW, did "Monko" comment on people who post with/without first and last names? That's just funny. Cher. Madonna. Oprah. Monko.
Monko January 10, 2014 at 08:51 AM
Ahaha, Sean, yes I did, but then I signed my name when I realized that's how I registered on here last year or whenever. I'm the only adult Monko in town, though. Still, the observation was valid, the detractors are anonymous, while the praise was owned.
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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