Printer Friendly

Moving Words.

Imagine you're sitting on a bus or a train. You look up and, amid the ads for ambulance-chasing attorneys and laser-wielding dermatologists, notice a picture of two police officers. The text reads, "Police are too important... to waste on arresting people for marijuana when real criminals are on the loose."

Boston transit officials are determined to stop that scene from becoming a reality. Change the Climate, a Massachusetts-based drug policy reform group, tried to buy space for the message on buses and trains in Boston, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority turned it down. The MBTA also rejected two other ads: one featuring a mother who declares that "jail is a lot more dangerous than smoking pot," the other showing a teenager who says, "Smoking pot is not cool, but we're not stupid, ya know. Marijuana is NOT cocaine or heroin."

Now Change the Climate is challenging the Boston decision as a violation of the First Amendment, and it has got a good shot at winning. (The Washington, D.C., transit authority, which initially rejected the same ads, relented in September, convinced that it could not withstand a First Amendment challenge; the ads started appearing in January.) Federal judges have repeatedly rebuked the MBTA for turning down controversial ads, and at least three appeals courts have found that public transit advertising space can qualify as a "designated public forum," triggering "strict scrutiny" of content-based speech restrictions.

Even if the MBTA convinces the courts that it does not operate a public forum, its decisions about which messages to allow must still be "reasonable," and it may not discriminate based on viewpoint. That is exactly what the MBTA appears to be doing, since it gladly runs ads from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. As MBTA spokesman Brian Pedro told National Public Radio, "You have to draw the line somewhere."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Reason Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejects ads from drug policy reform group
Author:Sullum, Jacob
Publication:Reason
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:316
Previous Article:The Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Next Article:Reason of the Witch.


Related Articles
Federal Court Bars Mass. Ballot Question On Parochial School Aid.
reader forum.
Federalism and the Supreme Court.
State lawyers press defense of suicide law.
Voters take the initiative: voters in 42 states had the opportunity to bypass representative democracy and vote directly on 202 different statewide...
State board won't get help in PeaceHealth appeal.
Activist group puts CBS on defense.
World trade recovery: black CPA firm snares post-9/11 contract to help rebuild New York's Ground Zero area.
Just? Unjust? The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war has opened up a new front in the debates over "just war" theory.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters