Thu, 5 Feb 2004 - The Philadelphia Inquirer
[NJ] Weedman Picks Another Fight
By Monica Yant Kinney, Inquirer Columnist
The Weedman cometh. Again.
This time, he's taking on TV.
When we left him last month, the man on a mission to end the drug war and legalize marijuana was facing jail time for refusing to submit to DNA tests as a condition of his parole. He was also fighting the state's refusal to allow him to change his name from Ed Forchion to that of a Web site, www.NJWeedman.com, mounting a congressional campaign, and lamenting his financial ruin.
Forchion's political fortunes, alas, don't amount to much, either. Taking a cue from Howard Dean, Forchion -- an asthmatic Rastafarian former truck driver and doobie devotee - raised $500 in Internet donations from fellow smokers and tokers. Money in hand, he marched over to Comcast's Mount Laurel office to buy time for a few campaign ads. He wants to get on CNN and the Fox News Channel to reach Democrats and Republicans. And BET, because, as an African American, he feels "a lot of black people don't participate" in politics.
Plus, he adds, "so many young people in the hip-hop movement smoke marijuana. And they watch TV."
So far, the cable giant has left his request smoldering in the wind, hinting that his ads might not be fit to air. So now, the Weedman finds himself in yet another fight over life, liberty and the pursuit of lighting up legally. Which, if you know Ed, is exactly where he wants to be.
The American Way
Thank goodness the Weedman is underemployed. It stinks for his family but does provide more time to fan the flames. This former felon's a natural. Unlike professional politicians, the Weedman doesn't wiggle and waffle over what he stands for. He just wants to end the drug war and legalize pot. In the last few years, he's run for county freeholder, the state Legislature and Congress on the U.S. Marijuana Party ticket. Sometimes, he seeks two elective offices at the same time. This go-around, the Weedman runneth against 10-term Republican Congressman Jim Saxton in the Third District spanning Burlington, Camden and Ocean Counties.
After announcing his intentions just before Christmas, the Weedman edited some public service spots he filmed a few years back to conform to candidate standards. By conform, he means adding the tag line "Paid for by Ed Forchion for Congress" to the end of the ads.
Because the message, then and now, remains the same.
"I'm here before one of the world's greatest symbols of freedom to let you know the liberty this flag represents is in grave danger," he says in one ad, standing in front of the stars-and-stripes, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a marijuana leaf. "As with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, the drug war is destroying our free society," the Weedman argues. "It's time we return freedom to America by ending the war on drugs."
"It's really a war on individual liberties. And that's just un-American."
Weedman goes to Washington?
Turns out, the Weedman is right on his rights to preach for pot on TV. Cable operators and networks have little discretion over campaign ads. Air one for one candidate, and you must air them for all candidates. Comcast can intervene only if the material is deemed obscene.
"Comcast routinely carries advertisements for qualified candidates pursuant to federal regulations," the company's spokesman, Tim Fitzpatrick, said after I inquired about the Weedman's runaround. When and where the ads would pop up, Fitzpatrick couldn't say. Just that they will, so long as the Weedman can pay.
After watching the proposed promos, may I suggest he run them through the editing machine again? In one ad, he claims that "scientific facts" prove that pot has never killed. Campaign pros know to never, ever express such certitude, lest your opponent use it to hang you.
Even worse, in all three ads, Forchion forgets to give voters the most crucial piece of electoral info: What he's running for, against whom, and where.
Visit Ed's home page at www.njweedman.com
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