Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Nebraska DMV Says Lawyer & Marijuana Activist Frank Shoemaker Can Have His “NE420” License Plate

November 22, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Civil Liberties, Drugs with 0 Comments

The state of Nebraska has avoided a lawsuit by issuing a pro-marijuana personalized license plate to a lawyer and cannabis legalization activist.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Frank Shoemaker of Holbrook originally had his application for a personalized license plate reading “NE420” (NE for Nebraska; 420 for the internationally-recognized date and time for smoking marijuana) denied by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV said it turned down Shoemaker’s request because state laws bars messages that “express, connote or imply any obscene or objectionable words or abbreviations.”

But Shoemaker, who enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the denial was a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, upon learning of the lawsuit, advised the DMV to issue the plate, citing similar federal cases in other states that were decided in the plaintiffs’ favor.

“They deemed it was probably a plate that might prevail at a federal level,” DMV director Beverly Neth told the World-Herald. 

Amy Miller, director of the Nebraska ACLU, told the World-Herald that “the problem with offensive messages is that is simply too vague. Something that is offensive to me on ‘The Simpsons’ is perfectly acceptable for viewing on prime-time television.”

Indeed, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Missouri rejection of an application for a license plate reading ‘Aryan1’, citing constitutionally-protected free speech.

Shoemaker is an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization in Nebraska, supporting Proposition 19, a measure that would legalize the private, non-commercial use of the plant. He successfully argued that denying the license plate application amounted to an attempt to silence a political view.

“No one should have to fear government censorship for his political views,” he told the World-Herald. 

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