Document: ISU Loses Appeal in NORML Free Speech Lawsuit

One of several NORML ISU T-shirt designs presented in an earlier appeals court document.

On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a federal district court’s ruling in January 2016 that Iowa State University violated a student group’s free speech rights by censoring pro-pot T-shirts.

The lawsuit emerged after ISU administrators, under pressure from anti-drug lawmakers and the state’s drug czar, Steven Lukan, prevented the student group from continuing to print T-shirts with university logos and pro-pot messages. Last year, District Court Judge James Gritzner rejected the university’s trademark claim, ruling that its policies toward ISU’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws had not been applied in a viewpoint-neutral fashion.

The three-judge appeals court upheld the ruling unanimously. ISU could ultimately appeal the case to the US Supreme Court, although the court wouldn’t necessarily take it up.

Gavin Aronsen
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.