Diane Fornbacher I


Introduction by Cheyanne Weldon

Diane Fornbacher has spent a great deal of time and tireless energy over the last 15 years working with many of the “big names” in cannabis law reform, and will most surely continue to do so until we’re all FREE! She is on the Board of The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, Vice Chair of the NORML Women’s Alliance, and Managing Editor of Skunk Magazine. Yet somehow a year ago in Portland at the NORML Conference, I thought I had simply met a smart and hilarious woman that I’d hopefully stay in touch with via Facebook. Instead, Diane has not only made me laugh and given me something to think about most days since then, she inspires and empowers me in the most vital way: to want to do the same for others. Recently, the stars aligned and Diane was in Dallas on the date I had already scheduled my first NORML Women’s Alliance Meet-Up in Austin. I was able to meet her family and, not surprisingly, see what a loving mother she is to her two sons. Diane spoke to the 20+ attendees at the meeting and I’m told recharged the batteries of seasoned activists and inspired many new ones to join us and become actively involved. Diane has always been close to the patients she has met and worked with, and had another reason to be in Austin-she was able to meet your creator, Vincent Lopez, get the “XO” they’d previously only shared on-line, and make plans for this interview. I hope that you can see her beautiful soul shining through her words.

As a parent, what advice would you offer to other parents in regard to informing and educating their kids about Medical Cannabis and Cannabis in general?

DIANE: Talking to children about cannabis is a very personal decision and quite multilateral. My eldest son, who is almost nine, knows that people like his Grandma need medicine for multiple sclerosis. I tell him that citizens should have the right to choose what will work for their bodies. For Grandma, it’s Interferon. For people like my friend Cheryl Miller, it was cannabis. I explain to him briefly that the laws do not reflect the will of the people and I am fighting to change that. Recently, he has started to ask more questions about cannabis as a recreational substance since he sees that culturally, the entertainment business is quite open about usage. I have told him that since the plant is very useful, there are people who choose to use it to relax. He knows that I believe it is for adult use only, to be used after the age of 21, unless it is prescribed by a physician. He also knows that hemp is a wonderful resource and because of the laws we have against cannabis, we citizens have also been deprived of the right to grow it here in the U.S.

Tell me of your experience in meeting Baltimore Detective Neill Franklin (Executive Director of L.E.A.P. – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and how has the power of his badge (that he gave you) affected you personally?

DIANE: Meeting Neill Franklin was an “Aha!” moment for me because we spoke about how important it is for law enforcement to come out against the war on drugs, as much as it is for parents. These are two huge demographics that have a lot to contribute to the healing of damages done to our citizens by the War on Drugs. After I spoke on the NORML Women’s Alliance panel at the 40th NORML Conference in Denver this past April, Neill gave me his badge so I could use it to tell others about his professional experience, as well as him losing his partner in a drug bust gone wrong, and how that began to open his eyes about all the collateral damage this so-called War on Drugs has wrought. I felt honored and was in a state of disbelief when receiving this gift but I am determined to use it to make people understand his viewpoints from a very personal, professional and tragic experience.

How did going through your experiences in the heartland of this country (the home of our Forefathers) affect your drive in getting involved in the Cannabis Reform Movement?

DIANE: I was already pretty heavily involved with the cannabis reform movement prior to moving to the Philadelphia tri-state region in 1999. In November 2000, I organized what we called the “Liberty Protest” at Independence Hall on the lawn adjacent to the location of the Liberty Bell. People were waiting in long lines because it was Election Day so we had a pretty good audience. The federal park police sidled up and demanded to see my “Permit to be in the Free Speech Zone”, which I thought was utterly ludicrous given where we were, especially. I produced the Bill of Rights. The officer says to me, “I know what this is but “Where is your permit to be in the FREE SPEECH ZONE?” as if I didn’t understand what he meant the first time around. I basically told him that was it and that we were not going to move. We were going to keep educating people about cannabis, jury nullification and other rights they have. They eventually “let” us stay there for the duration of our demonstration but that really sticks with me to this day. If they had challenged me, they would have had to carry me and several other people away in cuffs because we were not going to move an inch.

In considering all the activism work you’ve been involved with as well as maintaining a family, how does Diane make personal time for Diane?

DIANE: Sometimes, when I work too long without a break, I find that while I seem to have gotten a lot done, I wasn’t really that productive. I have a ton of talented friends who make all kinds of art (musicians, painters, poets), and I like to see what projects they’ve got going on. Other times, I like to ride my bike for awhile and think about life. I also garden extensively but not cannabis. Naturally, I spend every moment I can with my children as well. They are really the reason I live and though it’s not what’s considered ‘Diane’ time exactly, hearing their laughter definitely energizes me.

As Vice Chair of the NORML Women’s Alliance what would you say about the power of women involvement and the difference it can make?

DIANE: I think the power of women has had an enormous influence on philanthropic and charitable causes. This may have to do with us being capable of giving birth, I think. We tend to be more emphatic and emotive for the most part and I think that helps reach other women and men alike. We all have something to lose here in this “War on Drugs” but families collectively have so much more to lose. To parents, this is terrifying. To a mother, I think that it’s ever-more frightening. Our children are the collateral damage of the current drug policies and much like it was during the ending of alcohol prohibition, women will be the final reason the madness ends. If we can garner enough support with mothers and women of all backgrounds, this War on Us can finally be put to rest. You’ve heard the old adage, “If mom isn’t happy, no one is happy.” It’s the truth!

What current projects have been implemented into the Women’s Alliance?

DIANE: We have the Sister-to-Sister Mentoring Program which seeks to cultivate female activists. The project is designed to recruit and retain female activists in the cannabis reform movement by establishing big sister, little sister relationships for new and seasoned activists. I would encourage any women interested in reform of the cannabis laws to go to norml.org/women and sign up.

To the medical cannabis patients out there, how would you advise them in regard to not being fearful about speaking up and coming out?

DIANE: Better get busy living than busy dying, I always say (and also stole that from the movie Shawshank Redemption). ~