Such a scary leaf

leafWhat is it about this simple, natural green symbol that makes people so afraid?

ISU sued for prohibiting logo on pro-marijuana shirt

FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is helping students in the Iowa State University chapter of NORML bring a lawsuit against the university for withdrawing approval to use the university logo on a T-shirt that also has a cannabis leaf. Other official student organizations can use the logo on their shirts, but not if there’s a green pointy leaf on it.

I’ve had some experience myself with university fear of the leaf symbol. At another ISU, where I work, the registered student organization chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy ran into a situation some years ago where they were denied permission to distribute flyers in the residence halls for their upcoming Hempfest simply because of the leaf on the flyers. A clear-cut case of unconstitutional content discrimination, yet it took months of bouncing around various administrative offices to resolve the issue.

Some years later, the SSDP group chalked the sidewalks on campus to promote Hempfest, all in proper accordance with university guidelines on how student groups were allowed to chalk. An overzealous administrator, concerned about how that would look to a large group of visiting prospective students and parents that weekend, directed someone at facilities to power wash all of the chalked advertisements. In that case, the university actually apologized to the group for what had been done, which was a real step forward.

It’s just a picture of a leaf. Since it represents all sorts of things, including using hemp for industrial purposes, food, rope, medicine, etc., it doesn’t solely stand for recreational use. Also, groups using it are often specifically promoting political action (getting people to consider legislative change – a critical part of citizen responsibility), it’s not a symbol that means “pro-drug.”

And yet that simple image frightens people. It seems to have developed a power that represents an entire cultural movement.


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53 Responses to Such a scary leaf

  1. divadab says:

    It is a scary leaf to those who fear the unjust dominion of the prohibitionists. In a country where people who grow this leaf are humiliated, robbed of their freedom and their assets, and forever labeled as unemployable, there is some justification for this fear.

    That said, what a shameful submission these timid administrators have shown. Pathetic.

  2. kaptinemo says:

    What’s really so strange is that when you compare symbology, it becomes obvious which symbols inspire greater fear.

    Cannabis leaf compared to, say, a submachinegun. And yet they’re scared of our symbol?

  3. thelbert says:

    the fearsome leaf sybolizes freedom and that can’t be tolerated in the land that bills itself as free, but has the largest prison population.

  4. darkcycle says:

    The leaf IS a powerful symbol. It is immediately recognized, and it resonates with everyone, albeit for different reasons. On the “Drug free zone” signs it is the chosen stand in for all drugs. They don’t use an illustration of a poppy, coca leaf, or datura, nor do they bother with a syringe, although that could have been a reasonable choice.
    It is (I have heard) THE most often used in tattoos, outstripping the Cross since the late ’80s.
    Funny thing is, it is they who chose it, and therefore they (the authorities trying to supress it) who gave it that power.

  5. claygooding says:

    My first tattoo was my knock out weed on my left bicep,,it has since become just good weed.

  6. thelbert says:

    i have at least a thousand symbols of liberty growing in the back yard, zero on the arms.

  7. O. B. Server says:

    Like banning cannabis itself, banning the image of the cannabis leaf has ironically backfired, most spectacularly: the cannabis leaf is probably THE most widely recognized leaf of any plant today.

    I say if you place ten popular plant leaves (oak leaves, leaves of grass, etc, etc) alongside a pot leaf, the pot leaf will be the most easily recognized, by the most people.

    Everybody knows what the forbidden, taboo pot leaf looks like. I bet fewer kids can point to an oak leaf, than can point to Ukraine on an unlabeled world map. Banning images of pot leaves has backfired, 100%.

    • O. B. Server says:

      Thinking about it more, this pot leaf weirdness seems related to Orwellian doublethink, especially this bit:

      … to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again…

      I think this is a “look at me, – don’t look at me” contradictory fetish fascination, of the mental manipulation kind. Artificiality nurtured by media.

      Probably something along the lines of what Steven Jacobson said the 1936 “Reefer Madness” movie contained: suggestions to kids to try pot; contradictory suggestions to their elders and government stoking fear reefer is a soul-destroying assassin of youth (justifying more government guns, of course).

    • Windy says:

      “Everybody knows what the forbidden, taboo pot leaf looks like.”
      Yep, and so how do some cops still mistake tomato and other plants for pot? Are they 90% blind?

      • Duncan20903 says:

        I have heard that brain damage in the correct part of the brain can affect a person’s vision.

        • Windy says:

          Well, IMO, anyone wanting to be a cop must have some form of brain damage, so perhaps what you heard is correct.

        • War Vet says:

          And in order to stop brain damaged humans from entering the force: suggesting to the youth of today–to join the police force for a few years and dilute the system from the inside. Educate them before the system gets their hooves onto him or her. Telling them to become cops before they lose their legal ability to. A good strain of kids growing around us and loaded down with information can get schooled on knowing that searches on the road for passengers or drivers equals more opportunity for a motorist to go over the speed limit thus searches equate to dangerous driving and that the same occurs by consuming up the timecards for the rank and file cops on drugs alone while actual crimes of theft or violence occurs or could at any moment. When I have kids, I will tell them: join the military or join the police for a few years. I need them to dilute the system and practice their ‘For the People by the People’ physical activity. I will not let my children own their freedom of speech (they can play with it) unless they can do more than just talk. I will teach them to write to their politicians and newspapers and have them teach their friends about it. The wife and I will start off by teaching them the value of picking up trash and helping the elderly and physically disabled–animals as well and on to ‘Habitat 4 Humanity’ at the time they can keep more paint on their brush than on them or their outfits–or learn how to drive a nail in. It will save the nation some money in the long run. This is my pledge.

  8. Duncan20903 says:

    Hey, I thought that I-502 didn’t include an allowance for personal cultivation? So how in the heck can anyone claim that Seattle is America’s fastest growing big city (2014)?

    • darkcycle says:

      Yeah, but medical cultivation s still allowed. As far as being the fastest growing U.S. City….not surprising to me, but not at all a good thing. I lived in Seattle for 25 years or so, it will always be my favorite city, for so many reasons. But Seattle’s infrastructure hasn’t been substantially improved since the ’70’s. It’s gridlock from dawn ’til dark.

      • claygooding says:

        Hated deliveries in Seattle area because of the traffic,,it rivals Chicago for road rage drivers,,or did around 2005 when I last ran up that way. But damn that is some purty country.

        • Windy says:

          My daughter is a driver for a limo company in the Seattle area, her drives in the metro area of Seattle are the ones about which she complains the most. And yes it is gorgeous, scenery wise.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        I’ve heard more than a few prohibitionist claims that the places with less than draconian cannabis laws are suffering an exodus.

        • primus says:

          When there is an exodus, the Real Estate market goes soft due to more sellers than buyers, and we call that a buyer’s market. When there is an influx, the opposite happens and there are more buyers than sellers and we call it a seller’s market. I checked. In Denver houses are selling when the ink on the listing is still not dry; it’s a strong seller’s market, so there might actually be an influx, but there is certainly not an exodus. I suspect that the same is true in other Colorado and Washington cities. This appears to be another example of that law (can’t remember name) where everything the prohibidiots say turns out to be the exact opposite of the facts.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          No doubt in my mind that they’re making it up. Remember the motto of the Know Nothing prohibitionist?

          It was just some supporting evidence that they’re bald faced lying. Do you want to see a link to the media outlet that said that in 2012 the cities of Seattle and San Francisco were the #1 and #2 best cities in America to live? Gosh, I really wish I didn’t miss that one until almost halfway through 2014.

          Hard evidence marginalizes these assholes, and demonstrates to our fence sitting target that the prohibitionists are in fact unashamed, bald faced liars. Whether the reasons are valid or not we just aren’t granted the credibility to use logic and personal observations to support our arguments. Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong it is our own little cross eyed bear. You don’t like it? Well neither do I.

  9. primus says:

    Can anyone think of any leaf which is more widely known? In Canada, the maple leaf would be widely known, however other parts of the world not so much. I can’t think of any leaf which more people in the world could identify than cannabis. See, even its image proliferates under prohibition. If not for prohibition, very few people would know the shape of the leaf, and after relegalisation the numbers will probably drop off.

  10. allan says:

    and I’ve found cannabis to be a beautiful subject for my photography. In all those years I’ve managed to produce my own home-grown I’ve never once seen a plant assault anyone. Never seen ’em go rob a 7-11. They just grow. If you listen real close… sometimes at twilight you can hear them whispering.

    I’ll be looking for a farm to shoot again this fall. New camera body, much MUCH better quality than the old (from 6MP to 16.3) and I have a model friend (used to work w/ Tod McC) (Appleseed has flown the coop) that wants to help add some sacred feminine – Xochiquetzal-ness – to the day.

    I swear the older I get the more brazen a hussy I become. There’s something about reaching a point where I realize there’s an end to all this (thankfully, you’re a nice enough lot here and all that but your species sucks, pretty much) and it’s like fuck it, no more Mr Nice Guy.

    Ze 21st century better vatch out ven I catch up!

    But back to pot and it hardly being scary. The last time I got to go out to the coast with badger man and the shroomies (context note – after all these years I wholeheartedly agree w/ McKenna and shroom eaters everywhere that the shrooms are their very own intelligence and love a good ride as much as we do) they were absolutely intrigued by the ganja buds, how beautiful and how they sparkled, how they tasted when smoked – they kept insisting I smoke another bowl. Funny guys those fungusy types.

    • allan says:

      (there’s a “workplace safe” on and off button)

    • NorCalNative says:

      allan, the June cannabis photo in your 2014 calendar is one of the coolest pictures of the plant I’ve ever seen.

      Just spent an enjoyable half hour or so looking at your work. Plowed is also an amazing shot, as is all the rest of your work.

      And, the Will Rogers quote from your blog morning donut is one I’ve never seen before. For those who might be unfamiliar with it…


      “Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as PROHIBITION did, if five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on earth.”

      • allan says:

        thanks… *bows*

        … and props for liking “plowed” it’s one of my all time ever favorites. Taken less than 100 yards out my front door…

        50 years of practice helps! I have a love/hate relationship w/ writing but my photography is all love.

        Writing is work. It’s concentration and time and angst and were it not that I’m actually finally reaching an audience w/ a publisher that likes my work and pays me (hoo-raw!) a decent word rate I’d have given up years ago.

        But behind a camera… the details just get taken care of and I just do it. And I’m happy doing it. AND… it goes real well w/ my herb of choice which reallly makes me happy.

        Ya know that old “don’t you think you could do better w/o being intoxicated?” crap? I say hell no. A large part of my skill has come from the patience that cannabis provides to a jittery little f… like me. And that’s why I need to enter the 21st century. I just went into hock for a new camera body and it is sooo much better than my old one. But I can’t work with the new wwweb platforms and my old stone age qwerty. So nobody but me gets to see what I’m doing. Hopefully my upcoming crowd funding attempt will bear fruit and I can at least get a laptop and wifi. I may have a heart attack first time I connect here at HS. To click on a link and boing! have it appear is still a concept to me.


  11. Its substituting an appreciation of nature for a political idea.

    A bit OT.
    “University of Arizona marijuana-PTSD researcher says she was fired over cannabis advocacy, study likely dead”

    She is the researcher that got approval from the federal government to study pot’s effects on vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. Senator Yee to thank again.

  12. DdC says:

    Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.
    Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.
    ~ Almansor: A Tragedy (1823)

    The Country USA Festival Is a Paradise and You Haven’t Even Heard of It Because You’re a Fucking Hipster
    Despite Country USA taking place in Wisconsin, one of the most northern states in the Midwest, people still really love the Confederate flag.

    Ohio Neo-Nazi March
    At least two dozen members of the National Socialist Movement, which calls itself “America’s Nazi Party,” had gathered at a city park to march under police protection.

    Many pro-life organizations set up tables with models,
    like this bowl of plastic fetuses.

    Oh but a Cannabis leaf symbol?
    Holy underwear! We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here,

    Ohhh! You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness! Ohhh! Look out! Look out! I’m going! Ohhhh – Ohhhhhhhhhh!
    ~ Michele Lyinghard quoting Calvina

  13. Spirit Wave says:

    Then maybe I shouldn’t have published this short video on this leafy subject?

  14. ezrydn says:

    What’s the difference between this story and a 6 yr old pointing his finger at someone and the teacher thinks it could go off and kill someone. Pure stupidity.

  15. Servetus says:

    OT. New research at the Imperial College in London and Goethe University, Germany, et al., uses blood-oxygen level mapping to describe the mind expansion and creative impulses associated with people who consume psilocybin:

    “What we have done in this research is begin to identify the biological basis of the reported mind expansion associated with psychedelic drugs,” said Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris from the Department of Medicine, Imperial College London. “I was fascinated to see similarities between the pattern of brain activity in a psychedelic state and the pattern of brain activity during dream sleep, especially as both involve the primitive areas of the brain linked to emotions and memory. People often describe taking psilocybin as producing a dreamlike state and our findings have, for the first time, provided a physical representation for the experience in the brain.”

    The new study examined variation in the amplitude of fluctuations in what is called the blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal, which tracks activity levels in the brain. This revealed that activity in important brain networks linked to high-level thinking in humans becomes unsynchronised and disorganised under psilocybin. One particular network that was especially affected plays a central role in the brain, essentially ‘holding it all together’, and is linked to our sense of self.

    In comparison, activity in the different areas of a more primitive brain network became more synchronised under the drug, indicating they were working in a more co-ordinated, ‘louder’ fashion. The network involves areas of the hippocampus, associated with memory and emotion, and the anterior cingulate cortex which is related to states of arousal.

    Lead author Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi from Goethe University, Germany said: “A good way to understand how the brain works is to perturb the system in a marked and novel way. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered. It is the first time we have used these methods to look at brain imaging data and it has given some fascinating insight into how psychedelic drugs expand the mind. It really provides a window through which to study the doors of perception.”[Emphasis added]

  16. darkcycle says:

    Well, Washington patients get ready, here we go again…

  17. Colin Keesee says:

    I am as anti-prohibition as anyone on here but I think it is unwise to use hemp leaves as your icon. Even folks who are neutral towards or even favorable towards legalization, see big, bold displays of hemp leaves as connoting an immature, hedonistic and myopic “420,” subculture of spoiled college kids, 20 something losers and gang bangers. Having been or having been friends with folks from all of those groups, I am sympathetic to their desire to see legalization. However, the “420” culture should not be the face of legalization.

    The Gay Rights movement started to make major progress when they changed their face from leather boys, cross dressers, cruisers and pride parades and switched to common law married, professionals. They saw that while there is nothing wrong with trans people, gays who choose to be bachelors and others who live totally non traditional lives, it is best to highlight gay people who live like the majority of middle aged, Middle American folks.

    We should sell legalization to the public on grounds other than our desire to get high without being harassed by the law. Legalization is about freedom, equality, public safety, medical compassion, an improved foreign policy and a whole host of other things that have nothing to do with getting high. Trade in the hemp leaves and replace it with an image of a statue of justice breaking apart a set of manacles or perhaps an image of St. John or a shattered yoke.

    • darkcycle says:

      I take your point. It’s an opinion shered here before. I think the point is, that we did not choose the pot leaf as the universal stand in for drugs. And whether we did or didn’ it’s a leaf. As a leaf it’s neutral. As a symbol it’s meaning is not only expanded, it’s heavily colored by what baggage YOU bring to it

    • Tony Aroma says:

      Good point! I think much of the significant progress that’s been made in recent years is, at least in part, the result of the face of the legalization movement changing from the tie-dyed, long-haired hippie to the more clean-cut, necktie wearing, young professional (I’m talking strictly about appearance, not philosophy). Look at the spokespeople for all the major pro-legalization organizations, and you’ll see what I mean.

      Like it or not, prohibition is all about us versus them (as is every war). The more we look like them (they are, after all, very superficial), the harder it is for them to treat us badly. They would never subject their own kind to imprisonment for something as trivial as possessing a plant. But those dirty hippies, on the other hand, aren’t like them, and need to be shown the error of their ways, as forcefully as necessary. And how can you tell a hippie? Easy, they’re the ones wearing clothes with hemp leaves on them.

      So while I agree people should have the right to display any symbol they want, I don’t think it really helps, and may actually hinder, progress toward legalization.

    • allan says:

      oh hooey!

      We’re here, we’re high, get over it. Replacing that leaf symbol now is nigh on impossible. Physics mate. We have mass, we have more than a little velocity (we’re a 300mph freight train remember).

      If you wanted to have this discussion a decade ago it might’ve made a difference. If you like it, wear it and wear it proud. If not don’t. But don’t stand in front of that train!

      And as far as these people:

      […] folks who are neutral towards or even favorable towards legalization, see big, bold displays of hemp leaves as connoting an immature, hedonistic and myopic “420,” subculture of spoiled college kids, 20 something losers and gang bangers.

      There just is NO accounting for taste. Those people of whom you speak (using your description) are snobs. If that’s what they see and believe they haven’t been paying attention. Personally I suspect the number of folks fitting your description is a pretty small cohort.

      • allan says:

        This a freaking street brawl, not Marcus of Doonesbury rules. They’re shooting at us and we have yet to return anything but words.

  18. DdC says:

    I don’t have a problem with the Ganja “black market”. More honest and serves the people more than the corporate legalizers. Anyone who has to dress up to appease the authority doesn’t deserve Ganja in the first place. It is becoming more known because of the internet and those tye dyes spreading the word and keeping it from extinction 40 years.

    “In the war on drugs, unlike any war in American History, unlike any modern civilized war of the past two centuries in this war on drugs they are not stopping the battle and allowing the Red Cross on the field. In fact, they are shooting directly at the sick and at those who are trying to help them..and they are shooting to kill.”
    ~-Peter McWilliams, speech before the LNC, July 4, 1999

    One somewhat consolation is now there is no where for the drug worriers to hide behind the kids. Both parties prohibition profiteers are showing their hand. The truth emerges as to why they have persecuted 20 million Americans. Why they have kept a viable competitor to the status quo fossil fools and chemical cotton. The synthetic drugs with their side effect drug sales. The prison industrial complex caging stoners of color. Possession, inhaling or not. Now we clearly see, as many have seen all along. Why cannabis is so called dangerous and why those who question the bloody drug worriers are tossed off of ballots and raided in the middle of the night. The prohibidiots still trying to buy legislation are being exposed. Time to start holding drug war tribunals to rid the nation of these liars and cheats. How do you even categorize someone who willingly and wantonly oppose letting parents give their children a remedy to decrease 300 seizures a day to maybe 3 or 4 or none a month? To lock up parents in cages for decades. For a plant that has healed nations for centuries. How evil must one be to not only sit by ignoring it, but to spent billions of dollars maintaining it. Or shifting blame onto the politically incorrect so called “tye dyes”.

    Banning medicinal research funding. Bogus science, manipulating numbers, future hobgoblins and flat out ridiculousness. With deadly results to American citizens. How many have suffered and even died since the 1974 discovery that cannabis shrinks several types of brain tumors. Never disclosed until it was re discovered in Spain in 2003. Then re banned since the US holds the patents. Over a dizen patents on cannabinoids with deals lined up with Big Pharma. Knowing we have been treating people with homegrown strains the past 40 years in spite of their laws. They still let people suffer and bust the healers until they can get it fast tracked through the FDA. The Ganjawar is a microcosm of what Wall St does to pervert Washington. We are showing it while the mainstream media are imbedded with the corporations. Many red flags showing us anti American activities. Up to us if we want it to continue. Not store bought elections or one or two Congressmen getting appeasement bills through the system of catch 22 Incremental Retardation.

    Vested Ignorance

    A Trillion spent on the Ganjawar is a Trillion in the Pockets of Prohibitionists.

    Drug Worriers preferred methods of treatment…

  19. Jack says:

    It would seem a lot of school officials mistake their mission as programming rather than educating, and any unapproved (by them) symbols do not fit into the programming.

  20. jean valjean says:

    Fourth of July Update for the drug war: We hold these truths to be self evident. Unless they refer to People We Dont Like, in which case the truth is what we say it is.

  21. thelbert says:

    here is an article about mmj with some interesting comments:

  22. darkcycle says:

    Oh. My. God.
    I’d like to share this little item from the Madison Patch, courtesy of Clay:
    Fewer kids smoking pot….more kids drinking and driving….and they are congratulating themselves on their great success.
    Comments are open, get in there soon if you want a crack at it, but this sitting duck is way too good to pass up, trust old darkcycle.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      I’ve been using the recently released CDC youth use rates comparing more legal jurisdictions to those less equal and think that set of statistics is more fun than the proverbial barrel filled with monkeys. 2013 results for Wisconsin vs San Francisco:

      Ever used marijuana (one or more times during their life)
      Wisconsin: 31.2%
      San Francisco: 28.2%

      Tried marijuana before age 13 years (for the first time)
      Wisconsin: 6.3%
      San Francisco: 5.9%

      Currently used marijuana (one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)
      Wisconsin: 17.3%
      San Francisco: 16.3%


      • Duncan20903 says:


        More monkeys from the same link posted above:

        Ever had at least one drink of alcohol (on at least 1 day during their life)
        Wisconsin: 65.9%
        San Francisco: 46.0%

        Drank alcohol before age 13 years (for the first time other than a few sips)
        Wisconsin: 14.6%
        San Francisco: 18.7%

        Currently drank alcohol (at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)
        Wisconsin: 32.7%
        San Francisco: 18.6%

        Had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (within a couple of hours on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)
        Wisconsin: 18.4
        San Francisco: 10.4%

  23. DdC says:

    OK If its Independence Day, then we are celebrating after the war. So why all the boom booms and missiles and war toys? Freedom is Peace.

    “Counter-Revolution of 1776”: Was U.S. Independence War a Conservative Revolt in Favor of Slavery?

  24. Duncan20903 says:

    This one is from the “never hit a man when he’s down. always kick him because it’s less effort if you don’t have to bend over.” category:

    Marijuana shop Allgreens fined for paying taxes in cash

    Shop sues IRS for assessing penalty
    Jul 3, 2014

    DENVER – A marijuana business in Colorado has filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for assessing a penalty for paying taxes in cash.

    The IRS charges a 10 percent penalty on cash payments for federal employee withholding taxes.

    • jean valjean says:

      faceless insentient bureaucracy in action. i bet the part of government which levied this charge was not even aware of the gov imposed need for dispensaries to be cash only businesses.

      • Windy says:

        I’ll take that bet. I’m certain they did and do know and this is just another ploy to try to derail legalization efforts in other States, and reverse it in WA and CO.

    • claygooding says:

      I am still waiting on the DOJ to go after the IRS for accepting funds from the sale of a schedule 1 drug as taxes.

      • Jean Valjean says:

        Of course, money laundering is not a crime when the government and the big banks do it. I think you’ll be waiting a while there Clay.

    • Tony Aroma says:

      I think they should be paying their taxes in pennies. That’d be worth an extra 10% just to see the IRS deal with truck loads of change. Might as well get your money’s worth.

      BTW, what part of “legal tender for all debts, public and private” doesn’t the IRS understand?

  25. thelbert says:

    one of harry anslinger’s shirttail relatives and billionaire backer of richard nixon, dick scaife has croaked

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