Legal marijuana advocate flees to Canada to avoid prison

Courier-Post Staff

Edward Forchion, a Browns Mills man who has campaigned to legalize marijuana, has fled to Canada to avoid a jail sentence for possession of the drug.

Forchion, 36, left the United States last weekend and has sought asylum at the Cuban Embassy in Canada, he said in a phone call to the Courier-Post. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 1 in Superior Court in Camden.

"I can't just walk into jail," Forchion said Wednesday.

Forchion ran unsuccessfully this fall for a Burlington County freeholder's seat and the 1st District congressional seat.

He said he arrived Wednesday at the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa, bags in hand. The embassy denied his verbal request for asylum and asked him to put it in writing.

Forchion pleaded guilty to conspiracy and marijuana possession but filed a motion to retract his plea.

He could be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but he can apply to the state's Intense Supervised Probation program, which could allow him to be released under strict monitoring after serving about six months of his term. Without the program, he would be eligible for parole in about 30 months.

Forchion would become a fugitive if he does not show up for his Dec. 1 hearing, said Greg Reinert, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's office.

"As with all cases, if the defendant fails to appear on his sentencing date on Dec. 1, the prosecutor will move to revoke bail and begin proceedings to have any posted bail forfeited and to seek to have that defendant extradited from any jurisdiction he is hiding in," Reinert said.

Forchion pleaded guilty in September, saying he wanted to be out of jail to see his children. His children were not with him in Canada, he said. He remains committed to legalizing marijuana in the United States, he said.

"I don't hurt anybody. I should be allowed to smoke," he said.