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Victory Is NORML: Court Orders ISU To Stop Censoring T-Shirt Supporting Marijuana Legalization

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Sticking up for the First Amendment while shooting down discrimination, a federal judge informed the President of Iowa State University on January 22, that censoring T-shirts worn by a NORML group on campus established a devious bias against the students… not to mention some serious constitutional concerns.

Primarily upset that Iowa State University (ISU) had banned the group’s highly modified NORML/ISU t-shirts “due to the messages they expressed,” which was meant to “maintain favor with Iowa political figures,” the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa found that ISU had sunk to a new low by engaging in unconstitutional discrimination – something the First Amendment seriously frowns upon.

While most growers were harvesting their crops during 2012, the student members of the ISU chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) presented a new twist on their T-shirt design to the university’s Trademark Office. Emblazed on the front of their new t-shirt was Cy the Cardinal, ISU’s mascot, relaxing on the schools initials with Cy’s face replacing the O in NORML. And telling it like it is on back of the shirt … “Freedom is NORML at ISU.”

ISU_Administration_ perplexed_by_NORMLInitially given the green light by the schools Trademark Office, the design and decision to accept it became a political hot potato shortly thereafter when a story about marijuana legalization included a photo of NORML ISU members proudly sporting their new ISU/NORML shirts.

Crushed by a savage logic and answering to an onslaught of political objections from both state legislators and Iowa’s chief drug policy adviser, ISU administrators crumbled. Effectively rescinding the school’s approval of the pro-legalization Tee by declining to let the ISU NORML student group order more shirts, altering the guidelines for using any existing ISU trademarks, and stipulating that any new NORML ISU T-shirt designs be subjected to special scrutiny – which would reject any future designs that featured Cy or pot plants.

Although the court’s ruling established the reaction from Iowa State University and their policies were “unconstitutionally discriminatory as applied to Plaintiffs,” it failed to find ISU’s trademark policy to be unconstitutional.

While this is a sweet victory for the students who brought the case, the court failed to find a pattern of suppression on other school-based social groups to support invalidating ISU’s policy as written … at least on a First Amendment basis.

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