Cannabis News Media Awareness Project
  MBTA Asks Court for Freedom To Disapprove Ads
Posted by FoM on February 02, 2002 at 13:37:40 PT
By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff 
Source: Boston Globe 

cannabis There are lots of great places to debate American drug laws, or promote alternative churches, or discourage binge drinking. But the MBTA doesn't think its subway cars, trains, or buses are the proper forum for political discussion and embarked yesterday on its latest legal fight over advertisements it deems offensive.

In the face of numerous legal defeats, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is back in federal court, this time defending its right to refuse ads questioning marijuana laws.

It's the T's fifth legal battle against a would-be advertiser in three decades, but the lawsuit by the drug law reform group Change the Climate is the first to go to trial.

For the courts, it's a relatively straightforward question of First Amendment Law: Do free speech protections apply to advertisers?

But the subtext involves more than a legal interpretation of free speech, some say. ''Let's face it, Boston is a different kind of city, for good or for bad,'' said Boston College historian and author Thomas H. O'Connor. ''After all, it was Puritans that founded Boston.''

So, while New York rarely fights risque advertisers on its public transit system and Washington, D.C., has virtually halted any attempt to regulate political ads on its buses and subways, Boston is still banning ads at the rate of about two a year, officials say.

''Other cities can do what they want,'' MBTA spokeswoman Lydia Rivera said. ''We have to, at some point, draw a line and say, `This is unacceptable.' If we have to continuously go into court to try and let them know that [some] advertisements are unacceptable on our system, we will continue to do that.''

Change the Climate, founded by Greenfield resident Joe White, wanted to run three ads on the MBTA. One, picturing a woman, read: ''I've got three great kids. I love them more than anything. I don't want them to smoke pot. But I know jail is a lot more dangerous than smoking pot.''

Another says, ''Police are too important , too valuable, too good, to waste on arresting people for marijuana when real criminals are on the loose.''

And a third says, ''Smoking pot is not cool, but we're not stupid, ya know. Marijuana is not cocaine or heroin. Tell us the truth.''

The MBTA rejected those ads last year, claiming they encouraged children to smoke marijuana.

In his opening statement yesterday, MBTA attorney Robert A. Bertsche said the transit authority retained the right to protect its riders from offensive or illegal messages.

''The T would not run an ad saying, `Shoplifting is not cool, you know, but grand larceny is a lot worse,''' Bertsche said. ''It wouldn't run an ad saying, `Police are too important to waste on arresting people for date rape when real criminals are on the loose.'''

The ads in question ran twice on the Washington transit system last year, displayed on the outside of 50 buses, inside 500 more, and in 10 metro rail stations.

''It's very rare that we're in any First Amendment lawsuits,'' said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

''We usually tend to run the ads that might be a little questionable because the board believes very strongly in First Amendment rights.''

Washington's transit authority learned its lesson in 1984, Farbstein said, when it went to court to block an ad mocking President Ronald Reagan as leader of ''The Jelly Bean Republic.'' The authority lost that case and has hesitated to interfere with ads ever since. Currently, Farbstein said, she's been fielding angry calls from riders upset about an ad campaign by Catholics for a Free Choice bearing messages such as, ''Because the bishops ban condoms, innocent people die.''

Some transit systems have successfully implemented a blanket ban on all public service ads. Once a system allows some political or public service messages, however, it becomes subject to complaints of viewpoint discrimination.

For example, argues Harvey Schwartz, the attorney representing Change the Climate, if abortion clinics can advertise in a public space, groups that oppose abortion also have the right to post their message.

''They can't pick and choose what viewpoints they'll allow,'' Schwartz said.

The MBTA currently bans ads that are obscene, violent, harmful to children, or denigrate groups based on gender, religion, race, or political affiliation.

The Church with the Good News has also sued the T over an ad that ran in December but was later yanked, which said, ''Christians in the Bible never observed Christmas. Neither did they believe in lies about Santa Claus, flying reindeer, elves, and drunken parties.''

Since 1974, the T has lost three federal suits brought by advertisers: Preterm Inc., an abortion clinic, in 1974; Citizens to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation, in 1992; and the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, in 1994.

Among recent examples of ads banned by the MBTA was a city-sponsored campaign against binge drinking with graphic images of college-age people vomiting, and a promotion for the movie ''Showgirls.''

The MBTA couldn't say how much it has spent defending such lawsuits. Schwartz said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request two months ago to learn the MBTA's legal fees, but so far has heard nothing.

With 1.5 million passengers a day, Rivera said the MBTA takes seriously its responsibility to provide an environment free of degrading, frightening, or offensive images.

''Boston is a very old city and there's a lot of culture and respectability here,'' Rivera said.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 2/2/2002.

Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff
Published: February 02, 2002
Copyright: 2002 Globe Newspaper Company

Related Articles & Web Site:

Change The Climate Ads

Banned in Boston - Reason Magazine

Moving Words - Jacob Sullum

Metro Accepts Marijuana Ad Banned in Boston

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Comment #7 posted by releafer on February 03, 2002 at 10:13:43 PT
Marijuana is sexy
The problem the greed freaks have is that sex it sexy, place a few buds on a breast and they'll be legalizing tommorrow!!!!

Don't forget the baby oil !!!

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on February 03, 2002 at 09:31:21 PT
Thanks for the update, p4me..
I love to hear what's happening in the UK...I really admire Colin Davies, taking his own misfortune with Multiple Sclerosis and turning into an opportunity to do something good for his entire country.

I'm not surprised at the lack of coverage....the only news from now on will be of the embarrassment of the police dept. in that district, as they continually will lose every court battle that comes up, as the feds over there decriminalize and coffeeshops become the norm in England.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by DdC on February 02, 2002 at 18:36:47 PT
First Amendment Trial Starts in Boston
Haven't heard any results yet...

First Amendment Trial Starts in Boston

Subject: First Amendment Trial Starts in Boston
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 13:54:58 +0000
Reply-to: Dear Friend -- here is the Press Advisory sent today by the ACLU of Massachusetts concerning Change the Climate's 1st Amendment case which begins on Friday, February 1 in Boston. If you live in the area, feel free to attend this important trial -- the first of three previous 1st Amendment cases against the MBTA that has gone to trial. You can view the documents of this case on our website at As soon as the investigation of our Freedom of Information Request for the attorney fees paid to MBTA lawyers is complete, I will publish this information which is likely to shock concerned citizens and tax-payers as the fees are likely to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thank you for your continued interest and support as we seek to "change the climate" around marijuana through our innovative advertising campaigns. Clearly we have an uphill battle but we expect to continue our efforts to stimulate public debate on this important issue. I want to thank the ACLU of Massachusetts and our talented lawyers -- Harvey Schwartz, Sarah Wunsch and Kim Scheckner -- for their incredible dedication and commitment to seeing this case through to completion. Joseph White
617-482-3170 fax 617-451-0009 PRESS ADVISORY

For immediate release

Harvey Schwartz, 617-742-7010 Sarah Wunsch, ACLU of Mass.,617-482-3170, ext. 323 FIRST AMENDMENT TRIAL TO BEGIN IN CASE CHALLENGING MBTA REJECTION OF MARIJUANA REFORM ADS What: Trial in U.S District Court in Change the Climate v. MBTA Where: U.S. Court House in Boston, Court Room 3, 3rd Floor, Judge Keeton When: Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, February 1, 2002 Trial is scheduled to begin on Friday morning, February 1, 2002 in Change the Climate v. MBTA. Change the Climate is a nonprofit group that promotes public discussion about marijuana policies and laws. CTC sued the Mass. Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) after the transit authority refused to display the groupís ads. The three ads rejected by the MBTA seek to stimulate debate about
1) whether arresting people for marijuana makes sense from a public safety point of view;
2) whether sending kids to jail is more dangerous than smoking pot; and
3) whether the typical anti-drug message that marijuana is as dangerous as cocaine or heroin is counterproductive with young people.

The lawsuit charges the MBTA rejected the ads because of their point of view, a direct violation of the First Amendment. Boston civil rights attorney Harvey A. Schwartz of Rodgers, Powers Schwartz is representing Change the Climate as a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Mass. This is the only case against the Tís advertising policy to go to trial. Several other judges in prior cases ruled that a trial was unnecessary and ordered the MBTA to display ads whose content or views displeased the MBTA. The T was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in attorneys fees in those prior cases and has come under fire for huge payments made to outside lawyers defending it in a variety of cases. Despite those prior rulings, Judge Keeton denied cross-motions for summary judgment and ordered a trial. For details on the trial schedule, contact the attorneys.


[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on February 02, 2002 at 15:23:14 PT
What are they teaching in Civics these days?
Or maybe they stopped teaching it, maybe that's the slot that opened up for DARE.

Instead of learning how an open democratic society is supposed to work, let's just talk about drugs.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by p4me on February 02, 2002 at 14:56:22 PT
weekend off topic stuff
I was reading the Hempcity threads that host the Dutch Experience message boards. Last Monday another Italian MEP went to Stockport to try to get arrested for MJ possession and the police did not arrest him because it was a waste of time. Colin Davies and the Radical Party MEP from Italy had there trial Tuesday and everyone at the DE called it Cday. there were about 50 people that marched to "FREE COLIN DAVIES" and try as they might only one person could get arrested.

"We have won" appeared on the message boards and Richard Cowan described the UK authorities as being in a state of confusion. Now Richard Cowan says that the prohibition wall may break in Scotland. It will not be covered by Blunkett's move to make MJ a Class 1 substance and Richard Cowan says that with a population of only 5 million, the political process may make Scotland home to many Dutchstyle coffeehouses.

I kept thinking something would appear about the DE or the UK in the news as this would be a big deal to media that practiced real journalism. Maybe real journalism is in hibernation due to the hard-*ss techniques of the prohibitionist.

Anyway today there is a link to a GW Pharmac. that is moving ahead with cannabis reasearch in the UK using whole cannabis as medicine. Come on puppet. Get on the phone and call them and tell them they are wasting there money because everyone knows that MJ has absolutely no medicinal value and if a bale of it falls on you it can kill you. Come on Puppet and make the call.

Standardised Whole Plant Extracts

GW's medicines are derived from whole extracts of selected cannabis plant varieties. This approach has a number of advantages: Hundreds of years of cannabis use provide for compelling evidence of safety. There is no reported death from cannabis use. Indeed, the therapeutic index for cannabis (the ratio between a normal and lethal dose) is estimated to be 40,000 to 1. The equivalent ratio for Aspirin is 23 to 1 and for Morphine is 50 to 1.

The medical literature contains significant amounts of evidence pertaining to the potential therapeutic benefit of cannabis. The development of a number of medicines from a single plant species means that much of the early pharmaceutical development work carried out by GW can be applied to a range of product opportunities, thereby avoiding the need to repeat significant amounts of work for each additional product in the portfolio.

Human clinical trials can commence at a relatively early stage in the development process - GW's first Phase II trial commenced just 20 months after its first crop was planted. Just over one year later, GW proceeded into its first Phase III trials programme.

Faster development timescales mean the overall costs of development are significantly reduced.

From this site

VAAI and grow some high quality MJ at home to curb terrorism(prohibitionist terrorism that is.)

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by lookinside on February 02, 2002 at 14:24:48 PT:

the definition...
of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result...

Boston's transit system must be a loony bin...

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by p4me on February 02, 2002 at 14:22:46 PT
way to go
Keep fighting that advertising revenue. If the dummies had accepted the money they would have the money and not have their nonsense shouted to America while getting better nationwide exposure to the ads themselves.

It is all blowing up in the prohibitionist faces. Just because the Christains have been able to purpetuate the Christain myth for so long does not mean they will be able to continue the myth (lie)of the value of MJ as a medicine and a recreational escape. Screw the Christains and their myths. Truth and the internet will prevail.

Vote against all incumbents especially the Sheriffs and Congress. It is a patriotic deed to plant marijuana only if it is of good stock. Growing with the Mexican dirtweed seed does not count as patriotic although the growing knowledge may lead to a patriotic act.

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