Recently, the University of Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MU NORML), received a letter from campus administrators demanding that the student led group suspend the production of t-shirts featuring a cannabis leaf alongside the university’s name. This came as a surprise to MU NORML, especially since advocacy groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and Missouri NORML had previously warned administrators that such a move would be a violation of the organization’s First Amendment rights. Representatives with FIRE and Missouri NORML made it clear that any action by administrators would result in a lengthy court battle; one they would be ready and willing to fight.
Benton Berigan, executive director of MU NORML immediately rejected the letter by responding with the following statement: “MU NORML is a student organization created to facilitate an educational dialogue regarding the history and policy implications of our nation’s marijuana laws among students and faculty at the University of Missouri. The university’s decision is an immediate threat to students’ intellectual freedom and First Amendment rights.”
With 26 states already embracing some form of legal marijuana and several more — including Missouri — considering legalization measures this November, officials with the University of Missouri would appear to be out of step with the majority of Americans on this issue. Even in the Show Me State, roughly 80% of voters have indicated they support expanding access to medical marijuana. A good sign for proponents of Show Me Cannabis.
NORML’s state affiliate, Missouri NORML has also joined the fight. Dan Viets, the organization’s executive director said: “Political speech is accorded the greatest protection of any form of expression under our Constitution. MU should encourage vigorous and open discussion, but all too often suppresses it because of misplaced fear of controversy and political repercussions.”
This isn’t unfamiliar territory. In 2014, the Iowa State University chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (ISU NORML) received a similar warning after the group submitted a t-shirt design that combined the university’s logo and a cannabis leaf. After relentless pressure from FIRE, Iowa NORML and NORML’s national office, ISU NORML was granted the right to move forward with the production of their T-shirt design that included the university’s logo adorned with a cannabis leaf.