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

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.

14 thoughts

  1. I am so proud of these young citizens. ISU just got schooled!

    You never, ever, give up your voice.

    Think for yourself, learn from others. Seek the truth, reject the lies. Learn.

    Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Now more than ever: speak Truth to Power!

  2. Thought control has always been a component of marijuana prohibition. Rejection of official group think is not tolerated.

    1. If you want a NORML ISU t-shirt, replete with Cy and a leaf, you can mail:

      1) a note specifying your size and a return address, and

      2) a $15 check (or cash, although that is not recommended)

      to the current NORML ISU treasurer* (endorsed to NORML ISU) at the address below:

      Jackson Lebedun
      NORML ISU Treasurer
      3906 Maricopa Drive
      Apartment 204
      Ames, IA 50014

      *Verification Link:

  3. Great work, ISU NORML! Thanks for your awesome and historic contribution to the struggle! Stay strong and united!

  4. This case always interested me because this is still an issue today. The use of a cannabis leaf or wearing a NORML or MPP shirt and it being considered drug para. or a violation of drug laws rather than a symbol of activism and First Amendment rights. The Court made the RIGHT move. Great to hear!

  5. The Appeals 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,”

    Poetic Justice.

    1. Such is the extraordinary power of a symbol over the human mind, a simple drawing of an ordinary leaf. I have several pot leaf tattoos, myself; I draw strength from them as well.

  6. Wonder if “Cy the Cardinal” like most such logos isn’t just an advertisement to drink BEER while watching some other guys play head concussion phootball.

    1. We live in an alcoholic society, my friend.

      Now, I don’t advocate going back to the days of alcohol prohibition, any more than I advocate for marijuana prohibition: I don’t. And hopefully, we as a society have learned the lesson for good: prohibition is a failed public policy.

      Education is the key, I think. Public Education on the dangers of tobacco use saved countless lives over time, and all without stepping on a single civil liberty. I think that is something worth sitting up and taking notice of.

      Mexweed, I think you are doing a wonderful job in pointing out the many, many other things in our society that are tools to exploit our health and well-being for profit: cigarettes, soda pop, even gambling. All of these are health problems for which marijuana is potentially indicated as a treatment (for various and respective, solid reasons.)

      Again: I’m not suggesting any of these things should be illegal. There is a better way, and it’s called Harm Reduction. And Education is among the very best ways to do that.

      1. Oh yes, thanks for the reminder about Harm Reduction. And Education, the best and almost only Harm Prevention!

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