Iowa State Chapter of NORML Wins Free Speech Case Against University

Iowa State Chapter of NORML Wins Free Speech Case Against University

Flickr / brian.abeling / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On Feb. 13, 2017, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Iowa State University cannot prevent students from using ISU logos on t-shirts that advocate for marijuana reform. The decision upholds a previous ruling by U.S. District Judge James Gritzner in 2016.

The case stems from a 2012 incident where the ISU chapter of NORML had its t-shirt design rejected by university administrators over its pro-marijuana message. Initially the design had been approved by the university, but pressure from conservative lawmakers forced the administration to reverse the decision, as reported by the Associated Press.

Denying that their decision was political, university officials argued that the shirt was rejected because they believe that allowing ISU NORML to use the university’s logo would give the organization the ability to use its trademarks “in a way that violates its viewpoint neutral trademark guidelines.”

But in the unanimous decision, the justices rejected that argument. “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.”

According to The Des Moines Register, university officials are currently reviewing the court’s decision and have not yet decided whether they will appeal it.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

Related posts