NORML ISU will have hearing against the university

NORML ISU will have hearing against the university

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:00 am

By Erin Malloy, erin.malloy@iowastatedaily.com

The motion to dismiss regarding the lawsuit filed by members of NORML ISU against four ISU administrators will be heard today at 9 a.m. before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Members of the ISU student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws filed a federal lawsuit in July against university administrators, alleging that new trademark regulations were adopted to restrict the group’s message. NORML ISU claims that this suppressed their First Amendment right to free speech. University administrators filed a motion on Sept. 4 to have the case dismissed.

NORML ISU’s president Paul Gerlich, junior in software engineering, and vice president Erin Furleigh, junior in genetics, filed the lawsuit against President Steven Leath, Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs, Warren Madden, senior vice president for business and finance, and Leesha Zimmerman, trademark office program coordinator.

The group initially had a T-shirt design approved by the university that included Cy and a cannibis leaf. According to the lawsuit, Hill and Madden met with representatives of NORML ISU and announced that Iowa State had withdrawn its approval of the T-shirt design.

In January 2013, the trademark policy was revised to restrict any designs that promote “dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors” or “drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”

After the trademark guideline revisions, the university approved multiple T-shirt designs for NORML ISU. However, in June 2013, the trademark office rejected a design that said “NORML ISU Supports Marijuana Legalization” across the front with the picture of a cannabis leaf.

In the motion to dismiss submitted by Thomas Miller, the attorney general of Iowa, the claims of Gerlich and Furleigh should be dismissed for failing to provide sufficient facts “to establish any constitutional right in the use of ISU’s marks, that they lacked adequate alternative avenues for communicating their message without ISU’s marks.”

The motion to dismiss, filed by the university argues, all defendants should be dismissed because they qualify as public officials acting within the scope of their authority, “except those who are ‘plainly incompetent’ or ‘knowingly violate the law’.”

A scheduling conference is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 21 to determine how the case will proceed.