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Forchion v. Bartlett

On September 20, 2000, Robert Edward Forchion (a.k.a."NJ Weedman") pled guilty to a crime involving the sale of marijuana. As part of his plea, he was sentenced to ten years in jail with the understanding that he would serve only six months before being released and placed on an Intensive Supervised Program (ISP), which began on April 3, 2002. As a condition of ISP, Forchion was ordered not to advocate the use of illegal drugs. While steering clear of any illegal activity pertaining to marijuana, Forchion continued his long-time advocacy for drug policy reform and continued to express to the media and on his website his belief that our drug laws are unfair. On June 6, 2002, Forchion's ISP officers arrested him after discovering that he had disseminated a flier protesting the drug laws. He was charged with a number of violations of his ISP program; however, he received the harshest sanctions for his distribution of fliers and for giving interviews to the media. Forchion was incarcerated for a few days and then placed on home confinement with an ankle bracelet. A few weeks later, his ISP officers discovered that Forchion produced a video advocating drug policy reform. Forchion was then re-arrested and held in custody. Again, most of the reasons given for his arrest pertained to his videos, website, and interviews with media. The ACLU-NJ argued on behalf of Forchion that subjecting him to adverse action for his free speech activities concerning marijuana legalization violates the First Amendment. The judge agreed with our arguments and, on January 24, 2003, ordered Forchion's release from jail and return to ISP. Less than a week later, ISP dropped all violations against Forchion. Despite that, in September 2003, the State moved for summary judgment, asking the Court to essentially reverse its prior legal opinion. The ACLU-NJ filed a brief in opposition and we await a decision from the court.

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