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He's a Weedman with a mission

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Coming soon to a candidate's debate and courthouse near you: Ed Forchion, the professional provocateur who just might be the most persistent pothead on the planet.

Surely, you remember Forchion.

He's the "N.J. Weedman."

Perhaps you've heard he's running for Congress. Again.

He's a candidate for the U.S. Marijuana Party, which has one and only issue: to legalize pot.

Or maybe you're familiar with Forchion's legal affairs.

Right now, he has several cases winding their way through the state and federal court system.

He's appealing his conviction in 2000 for possessing 40 pounds of pot with the intent to distribute.

He's suing the state for $4 million for locking him up just for speaking his mind while on parole.

Forchion sued officials who stymied his efforts to legally change his name to NJWeedman.com and use it on election ballots.

He's also challenging the state law requiring most convicted criminals and parolees to submit to DNA tests - and fighting contempt charges for refusing to make his own deposit in the DNA database.

Not that Forchion didn't give the government another option.

Last fall, he wrote Gov. McGreevey, inviting him to kiss his behind and "retrieve the DNA from your lips."

Usually, the Weedman is a mellow fellow. But ever since he got out of prison, he's been a man on a mission.

"I want," he says, "to ruin the laws that ruined me."

Up in smoke

The Weedman's ire, and inspiration, can be traced to the day he was busted for hooking his brother up with an Arizona dealer who shipped 40 pounds of pot to Jersey by Fed Ex.

It was 1997. Back then, he was just Ed Forchion, husband, father, long-haul trucker, ex-Marine.

He loved to travel, fish, gamble and lavish his family.

And he loved to smoke pot.

Because of how it relaxes him.

And because, as a Rastafarian with asthma, he believes he has the religious and medical rights to do so.

"I was living what I considered a normal life," he said. "I was below the radar, I was 'incognegro.' "

The arrest brought his alternative lifestyle to light.

The trial, conviction and sentence - he took a plea, but still got 10 years in prison - cost Forchion everything.

His driver's license. His 18-wheeler. His house. His manhood. All, gone.

Before, he says, he earned more than $100,000 a year hauling produce coast-to-coast.

Now, his wife is the breadwinner, working two jobs to support their kids and keep up their Browns Mills home.

After three years in prison and on parole, Forchion's a free man again.

Free to clock part-time hours at a gas station. Free to focus on his debts.

And free to stew about feeling more like a victim, than a perpetrator, of the nation's war on drugs.

"I've done my sentence and my parole, I should be done," he gripes. "But I can't go back to my old life. It's gone."

To be a mellow fellow

Forchion realizes how he looks to outsiders.

Like a self-serving media whore.

Like a man who thinks the laws of the land don't apply to him.

Like a thorn in the side of government who cries foul when the government pricks back.

"You don't have to agree with what I say," he points out. "But how can they throw me in jail for saying it?"

Just before Christmas, he pulled one of his regular stunts for the last time, smoking a joint in front of Independence Hall to get arrested.

From now on, he'll focus on his lawsuits, some of which have support from the ACLU and other legal minds.

"He's proven himself to be a sufficiently accurate assessor of his rights," said Mark Fury, a South Jersey lawyer appointed to represent Forchion on the DNA law case.

The Weedman doesn't expect to win millions or elected office. And he knows he could wind up back in jail.

But maybe by agitating, he'll persuade a judge to tweak a law or two.

And then, the "peaceful, patriotic pothead" can go back to being his mellow self again.

By Monica Yant Kinney
Inquirer Columnist