Gerlich v. Leath, No. 16-1518 (8th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
After the Iowa State University (ISU) student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU) had several of its trademark licensing requests denied because its designs included a cannabis leaf, two members of the student group filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging various violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted plaintiffs summary judgment in part and entered a permanent injunction against defendants. The court concluded that plaintiffs suffered an injury in fact in their individual capacities, and that they therefore have standing to bring this action. The court reasoned that plaintiffs' allegations that ISU violated their First Amendment rights by rejecting their designs and therefore preventing their ability to spread NORML ISU's message are sufficient to establish an injury in fact. The court also concluded that qualified immunity is not an issue here because this appeal solely concerns plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief; the district court did not err by concluding that defendants violated plaintiffs' First Amendment rights because defendants engaged in viewpoint discrimination and did not argue that their administration of the trademark licensing program was narrowly tailored to satisfy a compelling governmental interest; and 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. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.