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"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Banner Brings Duo To D.C.


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The two Stevens High School seniors who showed up for class last fall wearing T-shirts supporting medical marijuana are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

David Valenzuela and Chris Fuentes, both 18, don't have a case before the high court. In fact, they won't even go inside.

The two students will, however, address a free-speech rally Monday on the court's front steps. "Students are the future generations of America, so I think we have a big say in this kind of thing," Fuentes said Friday, in an interview after school.

Their expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., comes courtesy of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which has 100 chapters nationwide.

The group's rally coincides with oral arguments Monday morning in a case before the Supreme Court.

The court will consider whether Alaska student Joseph Frederick's free-speech rights were violated in 2002. Frederick's school suspended him for displaying a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner at a school outing to an Olympic torch parade. School officials said the banner violated a policy against advocating illegal acts.

Defending the Alaska school will be Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who investigated President Clinton.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Frederick. A paragraph in the 30-page brief tells the story of Valenzuela and Fuentes and their controversial T-shirts, which urged support for last year's initiated measure to legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota.

Voters rejected the measure Nov. 7.

A few days before, school officials rejected the T-shirts, forcing Valenzuela and Fuentes to change clothes and threatening to suspend them.

Rapid City School Superintendent Peter Wharton said at the time that the shirts' political message wasn't the problem. The problem was the picture of a large marijuana leaf on the front of each shirt. Rapid City schools forbid clothing promoting drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Valenzuela and Fuentes argued that they weren't promoting illegal drug use and that the marijuana leaves were political speech.

Wharton called that argument "absurd."

Now, Wharton's comment, originally made to the Rapid City Journal, is part of the Supreme Court's record in the Alaska case.

"We think that was blatantly unconstitutional," Students for Sensible Drug Policy spokesman Tom Angell said. He monitors such cases from his group's Washington headquarters.

A week ago, Angell called Valenzuela's mother to offer her son and his friend first-class airline tickets to Washington. "We were jumping up and down, hugging each other," Fuentes said.

Both seniors say their notoriety has made them more aware of First Amendment issues, but neither is headed for a political career. Fuentes hopes to become a tattoo artist. Valenzuela will enroll at the Job Corps at Nemo. He wants to be a firefighter.

The two seniors will have to take a day off from school Monday for the Supreme Court rally, but Fuentes will get credit in history for writing a paper about the trip.

Valenzuela cited another reward. "What we did helped another kid," he said. "Now, it's going to affect the whole nation. I feel pretty proud of that."

However, Valenzuela did point out that on the flight home Monday, they're booked in coach.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Rapid City Journal (SD)
Author: Bill Harlan
Contact: bill.harlan@rapidcityjournal.com
Copyright: 2007 The Rapid City Journal
Website: The Rapid City Journal


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did anybody think that this is just a ridicilous idea to take to court. It shouldnt even be a question. Wasting tax payer money on some high school kids banner is pointless
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