This lawsuit is a part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.
Iowa State University (ISU) students Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh are members of the university’s student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU). In 2012, NORML ISU received university approval for a group T-shirt that featured ISU mascot Cy the Cardinal’s head in place of the “O” in NORML. Following criticism from members of the public and state officials, the university not only rescinded approval for the T-shirt, but it adopted and enforced new regulations specifically designed to restrict NORML ISU’s ability to engage in political advocacy.
In both 2013 and 2014, the university rejected other T-shirt designs, including one that simply said “NORML ISU Supports Legalizing Marijuana,” under the hastily-drawn policy that broadly prohibits student groups from associating the ISU name with promoting “dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors” and “drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.” This pretextual justification conflicts with how ISU treats other student groups and demonstrates that ISU’s new policy violates the First Amendment by confusing political advocacy with illegal conduct.