Joy of Cannabis
THe Joy of Cannabis

NORML Wins Trademark Suit vs. Iowa State University

Olé: Former ISU NORML president Josh Montgomery shows off the shirt in question. (Des Moines Register photo)

When NORML ISU used the school's cardinal mascot Cy on their t-shirts in 2014, officials at Iowa State said no can do. Several students sued the school and, on Jan. 6, a judge ruled that ISU had violated the chapter's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

"Defendants are hereby permanently enjoined from enforcing trademark licensing policies against Plaintiffs in a viewpoint discriminatory manner and from further prohibiting Plaintiffs from producing licensed apparel on the basis that their designs include the image of a similar cannabis leaf," wrote U.S. District Court Judge James Gritzer.

The main issue was the use of a potleaf with the tagline, "Freedom Is NORML at ISU," on the back of the shirt. 

Winning! Plaintiffs Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh at FIRE press conference on Jan. 6.

“Iowa State has the right and obligation to manage the use of our university trademarks," ISU spokesperson John McCarroll said about the ban at the time. "Student organizations at Iowa State University have the right to express their views, but they can’t attribute those views to the university."

The suit was filed by ISU students Erin Furleigh and Paul Gerlich in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa and brought to court by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) as part of their Stand Up for Sppech Litigation Project.

“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision to deny every part of ISU’s motion to dismiss,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff stated.

“It feels so good to know the facts can’t be ignored anymore,” Furleigh added.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.