University of Missouri: Censors Student Group’s T-Shirts Advocating for Marijuana Legalization

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Missouri – Columbia

In September 2015, the University of Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MU NORML) sought to sell T-shirts to raise money for the chapter and raise awareness of marijuana policy issues. The group was required to apply for approval for the T-shirts’ artwork because it used the university’s name and images. Mizzou rejected MU NORML’s first T-shirt design, requesting that its cannabis images be removed because Mizzou’s licensing policy “prohibits the use of alcohol or drug related images.” A second version of the T-shirt was also rejected because it incorporated an image of the campus skyline, which the university considered a trademark violation.

On October 5, MU NORML president Benton Berigan received an email from Mizzou notifying him that the group’s proposed designs were rejected because of their “drug-related imagery, specifically the cannabis leaf.”

FIRE wrote to Mizzou twice, warning the university that it was violating the First Amendment by rejecting MU NORML’s T-shirts because it disagrees with MU NORML’s viewpoint. The only response FIRE received was an email from Mizzou Interim Chancellor Hank Foley that read: “I thank you for your interest and for your letter.”