Hempfest Ad on Bus Criticized by Some

August 11, 2008

Washington — An advertisement featuring a marijuana leaf that’s on the sides of some Intercity Transit buses has drawn complaints from two residents and one of IT’s own bus operators.

The complaints concern the content of the Olympia Hempfest ad, which includes the image of a marijuana leaf and the phrase “Equal Rights are for Everybody,” said Meg Kester, an agency spokeswoman. The Olympian also received a complaint about the advertisements.

Intercity Transit forbids advertising on its buses that is obscene, defamatory, racist, sexist or “that is directed at producing imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action.” The agency does not endorse any issue or product advertised on its buses, the exception being self-promotion, according to its policies. All political and issue advertisements identify who sponsored them.

The quoted language is taken from a landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case on the limits of free speech, Brandenburg v. Ohio.

In this case, the agency could forbid the advertisement if it were “an encouragement for people to get high,” said Tom Bjorgen, an attorney representing Intercity Transit. But Bjorgen said he assumes a reasonable reader would see it as a political statement advocating for the legalization of marijuana.

“I don’t think this is an encouragement to engage in any illegal action,” he said. “I think it’s more of the nature of a political statement: ‘We think it should be legalized.'”

The state Supreme Court has ruled that transit agencies cannot ban political advertisements on buses, Bjorgen said.

Jeremy Miller, who founded Olympia Hempfest in 2003, said Intercity Transit was paid about $3,000 to feature the advertisement on 12 buses for a four-week period. The advertisement was sponsored by the Olympia Hempfest Committee and Emerald Cross, a Seattle-based nonprofit resource center for patients who use medical marijuana.

Miller said the intent was not to offend anyone.


Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/ky28MbgW

Source: Olympian, The (WA)

Website: http://www.theolympian.com/

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