A federal law barring funds to public transit agencies that run ads calling for legalization or medical use of an illegal drug was declared unconstitutional yesterday by a federal judge. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman of Washington, D.C., said the amendment attached to a transportation-funding measure enacted this year violated freedom of speech by banning messages based on their viewpoint. “The government has articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason,” Friedman, said.
Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, noted that San Francisco bus shelters carry ads, sponsored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, suggesting that youthful marijuana use leads to a life as a derelict. “If this amendment stood, we would be barred from putting ads in that same forum to counter that message and to engage in a political debate about the wisdom of the marijuana laws,” he said. The federal measure was sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook, who took offense at pro-marijuana ads in the Washington, D.C., subway system. One ad was headlined, “Enjoy better sex!” and called for legalizing and taxing marijuana.