Feb 20, 2017 12:20 PM

ISU Administration Loses Lawsuit Against Pro-Marijuana Group

The famous ISU lawsuit is finally over. The decision of the Iowa State University administrators to block the distribution of T-shirts with cannabis images on them turned out to be a failure.

On Monday, Feb. 13, a federal appeals court supported the marijuana law reform advocacy group and claimed that Iowa State violated the First Amendment by banning the T-shirts.

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The case began when two students, members of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law, Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh, decided to print statement T-shirts: on the front, there was the school's mascot and an inscription “NORML ISU” and on the back—a marijuana leaf, under which a phrase “Freedom Is NORML at ISU” was placed.

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At first, the university approved this design. However, later, the administration of the school represented by President Steven Leath and Senior Vice President Warren Madden blocked it because it violated the trademark policy. It is believed that the state's politicians are behind this unusual approval process. The president was pressed by conservative lawmakers and a Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

In July 2014, the students sued the university's administration. Almost a year ago, U.S. District Judge, James Gritzner, decreed that the school violated the students' free speech rights. Unsatisfied with the decision, Leath and his colleagues appealed. After almost a year, the federal appeals court ruled out the appeal in favor of NORML as well.

The court concluded that “the defendants’ rejection of NORML ISU’s designs discriminated against that group on the basis of the group’s viewpoint.”

This lawsuit caused a major buzz in the state. Marijuana advocacy groups were not the only ones who took part in the process. Surprisingly, this pro-legalization organization was supported by such conservative institutions as the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America and the Christian Legal Society. The groups' attorney explained such actions with the simple fact that the administration's prohibition meant that no groups could participate in the marketplace of ideas, and if the government did not like your ideas, you would be discriminated. This case is a victory for all students no matter their view and organization affiliation.

Furleigh and Gerlich’s attorney, Robert Corn-Revere, has also voiced his opinion that political views cannot be at the base of the officials' decisions.

It is still unknown whether the ISU administrators will appeal for an 8th Circuit rehearing or even refer the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court or not. As of now, the case has ended in favor of the students.

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