Pubdate: Tue, 07 Oct 2003
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2003 The Blade
Author: Christina Hall, Blade Staff Writer
Photo: Cannabis leaves atop the acronym of the National Organization for 
the Reform of Marijuana Laws dot the Web page of the Toledo Police 
Department's vice-narcotics unit.
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws


Police Probe Alteration to Vice-Narcotics Web Page

The Toledo police vice-narcotics Web page went to pot - literally.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws thought
police were turning over a new leaf when it saw the page's background
filled with rows of pot leaves with the letters NORML under each leaf.

The Washington-based group, dedicated to reforming marijuana laws,
then realized it might have a bigger problem growing: the possible
misuse of one of its logos.

"It truly was unique and caught our attention Friday afternoon," said
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the NORML Foundation. "The
irony is just that great."

Sgt. Raleigh Schneider of the police's technical services section,
which handles the police's Web site that includes the Web page in
question, was unaware of the background. He didn't know who selected
it or why or how long it had been there. However, it was changed
yesterday, and authorities are looking into what happened.

"We're trying to be deliberate on how it could have happened - a joke,
a hacker, a person or company in charge that is a supporter of NORML,"
Mr. St. Pierre said.

Another thought is that whoever designed the page was looking for a
symbol on the Internet that was representative of drugs, one of the
main areas the police unit targets.

NORML was made aware of the Web page when it received a letter and $5
Friday from a man only known as Steve from Toledo. The writer
apologized for not leaving his last name because he was too paranoid.

Mr. St. Pierre said NORML contacted its attorneys in Ohio and
originally was prepared to ask that the background be changed
immediately or to ask the police whether they wanted to get permission
to use the image through a contract.

Mr. St. Pierre, who has been with NORML for 13 years, said he is
unaware of any misuse of the logo by a government agency. While the
symbol isn't a registered trademark, he said the police didn't get
permission to use the group's acronym with the marijuana leaf.

He wasn't surprised when he learned the background was changed. "Some
may think the page is supported by NORML or that NORML is in bed with
Toledo police," Mr. St. Pierre said.

City Safety Director Joe Walter said neither is true and was pleased
to hear that the background was changed to blue and black. "I think
it's a more appropriate background. With NORML's logo, obviously it
doesn't work for us," he said.

Vice-narcotics Lt. Dan Schultz agreed and said the department will
look into what happened to the Web page, which includes information
about his unit, what it investigates, and statistics.

"No matter which side you're on, you'll find it amusing," said Spiros
Cocoves, a Toledo lawyer and member of NORML's national legal committee. 
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