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Marijuana activist uses act of defiance to launch campaign

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A South Jersey advocate for the liberalization of marijuana laws declared
his candidacy for the U.S. House at Independence National Historical Park
by - how else? - lighting up a marijuana cigarette.

Not that he got a chance to smoke it.

After just a few tokes Saturday afternoon, a phalanx of 17 park rangers
surrounded Ed Forchion, also known as NJ Weedman.

The rangers confiscated the candidate's joint, and Forchion, 44, was issued
a $150 ticket for possession of a controlled substance.

Minutes before, while standing between Independence Hall and the Liberty
Bell Pavilion, Forchion said he intended to run as the U.S. Marijuana
Party's candidate for the seat held by Republican Jim Saxton in New
Jersey's Third Congressional District.

The district extends across Burlington and Ocean Counties and includes a
few neighborhoods in Camden County.

Also cited shortly after 4:20 p.m. was Pat Duff, 27, who said he intended
to run as the Marijuana Party's candidate for Philadelphia City Council in
2007. The self-described "renegade car salesman" said he would run on a
platform encouraging the opening of cannabis cafes across the city.

About 50 supporters, many with video cameras and shivering against the
wind, had gathered to watch Forchion and Duff ceremoniously light up.

The time and setting had been chosen with Karl Rove-ian precision.
"Four-20" is stoner slang for smoking marijuana. The park had the benefit
of being federal property, outside the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia
Police Department.

"We're peaceful, patriotic potheads," the soft-spoken Forchion said. "We
had meant to do this on Dec. 6, but it snowed and ruined what we'd thought
was going to be a big turnout."

On Dec. 3, Forchion completed 20 months of probation in Camden County for
pleading guilty to possessing five pounds of marijuana with the intent to

"I'm happy," he said of putting probation behind him, "I can run for office

Forchion, of Browns Mills, has run for Burlington County freeholder and for
the First District seat in the U.S. House on the Legalize Marijuana ticket.

A Rastafarian, Forchion has said he smoked marijuana for religious reasons,
to relieve back pain, and to help him deal with chronic depression. The
former cross-country truck driver has been an advocate of legalizing
marijuana since the mid-1990s.

His high jinks have been celebrated in what is left of the counterculture.
Among his stunts: lighting up in the New Jersey Assembly while wearing a
black-and-white-striped prisoner's costume.

Saturday's announcement was intended to make a more sober point, he said,
adding that he intended to challenge the rangers' citations in court.

"This is all about a First Amendment issue," Forchion said. "Freedom of
religion allows for the religious use of marijuana on federal property. I'm
just exercising that right."

By Sam Wood
Inquirer Staff Writer