November 21, 2011 / 3:26 PM / 8 years ago

Nebraska refuses pot-promoting vanity plate, ACLU sues

OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Nebraska’s motor vehicle department for refusing to issue a personalized license plate that refers to an unofficial holiday known as National Pot Smoking Day.

An attorney who supports marijuana legalization had requested a plate reading “NE 420”, letters and numerals that refer to Nebraska and April 20, the date of the unofficial holiday.

Frank Shoemaker, the attorney from Holbrook, Nebraska, who requested the plate, is the sponsor of a petition drive for a state ballot measure next year to legalize marijuana.

Beverly Neth, director of the DMV, refused to issue the plate and said the “420” numerals were used to promote marijuana use, an illegal drug in the state.

She said the numbers were also a combination that could be associated with Adolf Hitler, who was born on April 20, 1889, and the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, which took place on April 20, 1999.

Amy Miller, Nebraska ACLU legal director, said there was nothing obscene or offensive about Shoemaker’s proposed plate.

“It’s purely political speech relating to a current ballot initiative. “

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that license plates are a legitimate place for personal and political expression, said Tracy Hightower-Henne, an ACLU volunteer cooperating attorney in Omaha.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston

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