Iowa State University’s NORML Chapter Fought Back – and Won – in the 8th Circuit Court

Generic 14 February 2017 | 0 Comments

chapter_spotlightThe four-year feud between Iowa State University (ISU) and the student group NORML ISU has finally concluded with a victory for the marijuana reform advocacy group.

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.

Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:

NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”

The court disagreed.

“NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”

The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”

Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.

The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”

This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.

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