LAWSUIT FILED ON DRUG ADS ON TRANSIT
Civil liberties and medical marijuana advocates sued Wednesday to
overturn a new, little-noticed federal law cutting off funds for any
public transit agency that runs ads calling for the legalization or
medical use of any illegal drug.
The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., will be followed
by similar challenges in San Francisco and other cities, unless the
law is struck down, said Joseph White, executive director of a group
called Change the Climate. A congressman's displeasure at the group's
marijuana ads in the D.C. transit system gave rise to the law.
"There is no community that has more money at stake than the San
Francisco Bay Area,'' White said. He noted that the $3.1 billion
measure includes $100 million for the already completed BART airport
extension and $9 million for the Municipal Railway's Third Street
light rail project in San Francisco, money those transit systems would
forfeit if they accepted a forbidden ad.
"The government does not want the public to know how badly our drug
policy has failed, so it is trying to silence Americans who oppose the
war on drugs,'' said Graham Boyd, the American Civil Liberties Union's
chief litigator on drug issues and a lawyer in the lawsuit filed Wednesday.
BART spokesman Mike Healy said no one has tried to buy pro-marijuana
ads in its trains or stations. He called the new funding law
"blackmail of the transit industry'' and predicted it would be ruled
The suit claims the law, which took effect Feb. 1, violates the
constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.
The law's sponsor, Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., reacted angrily. "We
will spend over $12 billion this year to discourage illegal drug use.
It makes no sense to use federal dollars or federal property to
undercut that effort,'' he said in a statement.