Home Culture Students Win Over ISU Administration in Appeal Over NORML T-Shirts

Students Win Over ISU Administration in Appeal Over NORML T-Shirts

Flickr @ Joe Wolf

In the end, after over a year of lengthy waits between court dates, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the students at ISU’s chapter of NORML in a case between them and the administrators over a t-shirt design. About a year ago, Iowa State University’s student chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) won their court case against the school over t-shirts they made for their group that featured a marijuana leaf on one side, and the school’s mascot Cy the Cardinal in place of the “O” in NORML.

While the group thought it was a clever way to combine what their group stands for and some school spirit, school administrators were not quite as impressed. Even though the initial design was approved by the school, by the time the shirts actually came around and were seen out in public, they were suddenly singing a  different tune, telling them the shirts were banned because the school does not condone legalization.

“NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,” Monday’s ruling stated.

This case is first and foremost an example of a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights – and even though the initial ruling took two years to be determined, the judge pointed that out when ruling in the group’s favor. However the administrators were not willing to take that answer as their final one, and decided shortly after to appeal the judge’s decision in a higher court. Almost exactly a year later, here we are with another judge telling them that they have lost this case and Iowa State University’s NORML can keep their t-shirts, pot leaf and all.

“I’m most excited about the ruling being unanimous,” Gerlich said in a phone interview Monday. “That shows how we were clearly in the right from the start.”

Now that the court has once again determined that the students are right in this situation, we would hope that would be that and the students of ISU’s NORML could go on to wear their t-shirts proudly, a definite victory. However, a spokesperson for ISU has said that they are reviewing their options for appealing the ruling for an 8th Circuit Court rehearing – or attempting to push this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court; however they declined to give out any further information.

Hopefully the administrators are simply willing to admit defeat after two separate courts have heard their case and found that they have no grounds to ban the t-shirts. Unfortunately, that may not end up being the case and the group could find themselves right back in court – hopefully not another full year later – likely to once again be told that the court will protect their right to free speech in the form of these shirts.


  1. If you want a NORML ISU t-shirt, replete with Cy and a leaf, you can mail:

    1) a note specifying your size and a return address, and

    2) a check – $15/per shirt (or cash, although that is not recommended)

    to the current NORML ISU treasurer* (endorsed to NORML ISU) at the address below:

    Jackson Lebedun
    NORML ISU Treasurer
    3906 Maricopa Drive
    Apartment 204
    Ames, IA 50014

    *Verification Link: stuorg.iastate.edu/site/normlisu/officers