Appeals Court Denies Stay in NORML ISU Case; Pot T-Shirts Can Be Printed

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One of NORML ISU's approved T-shirt designs, via a document filed with the appellate court.

Iowa State University faced another setback Thursday in its efforts to prevent the university’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from printing T-shirts with images of pot leaves, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit refused to grant a stay of a district court order to allow the student group to print the shirts.

In January, James Gritzner, a judge with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, ruled that ISU had violated students’ free speech rights by changing student organization rules to apply them in a non-viewpoint neutral manner, banning NORML ISU from printing T-shirts with university logos and images of pot leaves. (ISU made the decision under pressure from state lawmakers and Iowa’s drug czar, Steven Lukan.) Gritzner ordered that ISU allow NORML ISU to print the T-shirts, subsequently denying ISU a stay of the ruling while the university took its case to the appellate court.

The appellate court’s denial of a stay means that ISU will have to continue to approve T-shirt designs submitted by NORML ISU, which the student group will be able to print without the university’s interference — at least until the appeals process is over, which NORML ISU’s attorneys said Thursday could take over a year.

The cat design pictured above is one of the design concepts the university has already approved. You can take a look at others in the document below.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.