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Iowa Cannabis Shirt Wins First Amendment Suit

Looking for something cannabis-y to wear on Iowa Republican and Democratic caucuses day? Consider rocking this shirt, which recently won a First Amendment case in the state.

The Des Moines Register

Here's the story: three years ago, the Iowa State University chapter of NORML submitted the shirt to the school's Trademark Licensing Office for approval. The logo included the group's name, a cannabis leaf and the likeness of Cy - the school's mascot.

The trademark licensors initially approved the design in October 2012, but they rescinded that decision later in 2012 due to political pressure. Basically, law enforcers and other influential members of the community thought the shirt suggested ISU endorsed legalization, and they weren't keen on that.

So ISU changed its trademark licensing rules in 2013 to prevent any group from tying the school's mascot to a cannabis leaf or any other reference to "drugs and drug paraphernalia." ISU NORML wasn't even allowed to use their group's name in their designs because the "M" stood for marijuana.

Members of ISU NORML weren't keen on being censored. They felt the administration was discriminating against their group. So on Jul. 1, 2014, they filed a lawsuit alleging that school administrators had violated their constitutional rights. The district court judge hearing the case agreed. On Jan. 22, the judge ruled:

"These circumstances show that (Iowa State administrators) took action specifically directed at NORML ISU based on their views and the political reaction to those views so that (Iowa State) could maintain favor with Iowa political figures. As such, the court must conclude (Iowa State's) conduct amounts to discrimination on the basis of (the students') viewpoint."

The ruling came with a permanent injunction preventing ISU from rejecting future designs sporting cannabis leaves. This could be a landmark decision for Pittsburgh NORML, which has raised awareness by parodying professional football and hockey logos.

h/t Des Moines Register, The Gazette

Banner Image: SD Dirk / Flickr


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