By Alfa · Feb 21, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    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.

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  1. Alfa

    The American Civil Liberties Union and three drug policy reform groups
    filed a lawsuit yesterday in U.S. District Court against Metro and the
    federal government, challenging a law that bars transit systems from
    accepting advertising about legalizing marijuana.

    Late last year, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) said he was angered by
    advertising on the Metro that encouraged decriminalization of
    marijuana. Istook inserted an amendment into the omnibus bill passed
    by Congress that denies federal money to any transit system that
    accepts ads promoting "the legalization or medical use" of marijuana
    and other controlled substances.

    Last week, Change the Climate tried to buy $ 91,875 in ad space on
    Metrobuses, but the transit agency refused. "We have no choice but to
    follow the law that Congress passed and the president signed," Metro
    spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said, noting that Metro does not want to
    risk the $170 million it receives in federal money each year.

    "Congress is trying to block needed political change by censoring
    speech that gives the public the facts about drugs and drug laws,"
    said Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the National
    Capital Area.
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