|Pro-Marijuana Group Sues MBTA on Ad Refusal|
Posted by FoM on May 18, 2000 at 16:19:58 PT|
By Greg Sukiennik, Associated Press
Source: Boston Globe
A group that wants the penalties for marijuana possession reduced sued the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority on Thursday for refusing to put its ads in buses, trains and stations.
The group claims in the suit filed in U.S. District Court that the transit authority violated free speech laws by refusing three ads that raise questions about marijuana laws.
The Greenfield-based group claims the refusals by government-funded MBTA amount to government censorship.
The ads, which were to cost the group $25,000, question current marijuana policy.
''I've got three great kids,'' reads one ad. ''I don't want them to smoke pot ... But I know jail is a lot more dangerous than smoking pot.''
The transit authority's advertising contract has a content policy, and MBTA has enforced it before, spokesman Brian Pedro said.
''We have an obligation to our riders,'' he said. ''In a subway car you can't change the channel.''
The lawsuit charges that the MBTA rejected the ads because they conflict with the transit authority's position on drugs. It cited a memo sent by the MBTA to Change the Climate, accusing the group of promoting marijuana use and seeking to legalize the drug.
The group's attorney, Harvey Schwartz, acknowledged Change the Climate wants marijuana laws changed. However, the right to say laws should be changed is protected by the First Amendment, he said.
''This organization is not saying `smoke marijuana.' It is not saying `break the law.' It is saying `let's change the law,''' Schwartz said.
The transit authority rejected the ads in January, after six months of discussions, said Schwartz.
''The MBTA is a public entity,'' he said. ''It can't pick and choose which political beliefs it will support and not support.''
Schwartz said the MBTA has lost in court for refusing ads at least three times, including one that promoted condom use.
The group is seeking an injunction forcing the MBTA to take the ads, as well as unspecified punitive damages. Sarah Wunch of the ACLU, which is assisting in the suit, said that is because the MBTA is still refusing advertising.
''Our patience is gone with the T,'' Wunch said. ''How many times can you bring the same lawsuit? They don't seem to care. They're paying attorney's fees with taxpayer dollars.''
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|Comment #7 posted by dddd on May 20, 2000 at 03:20:13 PT|
Comment #6 posted by CongressmanSuet on May 19, 2000 at 18:16:12 PT:|
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Comment #2 posted by CongressmanSuet on May 18, 2000 at 19:18:17 PT:|
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