By Grant Rodgers at The Des Moines Register
Two Iowa State University students are suing school officials after the university’s trademark licensing office forbade a pro-marijuana group from using the Cy logo on T-shirts.
Juniors Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh have filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa asking a judge to rule that the school violated students’ First Amendment rights by banning the Cy logo on shirts made by the campus chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Gerlich and Furleigh are the current president and vice-president of the student group, according to the lawsuit, which is part of a nationwide litigation campaign by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The lawsuit is one of four court filings today coordinated by the Philadelphia-based group as part of a national effort to eliminate what it believes are unconstitutional speech codes. The other lawsuits were against Ohio University, Chicago State University and Citrus College (Calif.).
IISU officials in 2012 banned the Cy logo on NORML’s T-shirts after members displayed the shirt in a photo in The Des Moines Register. The photo prompted complaints from legislators that using the logo gave the appearance the school endorsed marijuana legalization, officials said.
Before the photo ran in the newspaper, the T-shirt had been approved by the school, according to the lawsuit. In January 2013, the school updated its trademark policy to prohibit any uses of the Cy image tied to “drugs and drug paraphernalia,” according to the lawsuit.
Since the change, T-shirt designs featuring the Cy logo and a cannabis leaf have been rejected twice, according to the lawsuit.
Gerlich and Furleigh claim that the ban “hindered NORML ISU from challenging the orthodoxy that marijuana use should be prohibited,” the lawsuit said. Two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 21 have approved medical marijuana, the lawsuit said.
“Students Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh and the more than 500 members of NORML ISU, want to advocate a policy change that is being implemented in a growing number of states – the legalization of marijuana,” the lawsuit said. “By policy and practice, however, ISU unlawfully restricts its students’ and faculty’s constitutional right to free expression.”
The lawsuit names Steven Leath, ISU’s president; Warren Madden, the senior vice president of business and financial affairs; and Thomas Hill, the senior vice president for student affairs as defendants.