Marijuana enthusiast Mark Hornaday thought the T-shirt made a good point in an amusing, harmless way. The top line bears the stamp "D.A.R.E." -- the logo for a police-supported anti-drug organization. Underneath, the shirt reads, "I turned in my parents and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
The Claremont police and D.A.R.E. America are not laughing. Nor, in fact, is Hornaday, because he now faces a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $20,000 fine for selling the shirt at Hemp Shak, a Claremont store that sells legal products made from hemp, the "other" name for plants belonging to the marijuana family.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has charged Hornaday, 24, with trademark counterfeiting, specificially the unauthorized use of the D.A.R.E. logo, which properly stands for "drug-abuse resistance education." Pretrial motions in the case are set for December 8 in Pomona.
Hornaday and his attorney call the charges ridiculous. They insist the T-shirts are an obvious parody and are protected under the Constitution's free-speech provisions. Real trademark infingement has to do with people selling fake Rolex watches, says William G. Panzer, Hornaday's Oakland-based attorney. Panzer cites a list of supporting case law: an unsuccessful suit by the Girl Scouts against the makers of a poster featuring a pregnant Girl Scout; Disney's failed litigation against a comic-book parody featuring Mickey and Minnie having sex and doing drugs.
Moreover, past cases were civil lawsuits, not criminal prosecutions, where a jail sentence could result. Panzer says he can find no precedent for such a criminal prosecution, and he challenges using taxpayer's resources to fight the battles of D.A.R.E., a private organization.
As for D.A.R.E., its attorney cannot recall initiating any litigation over parody products. General counsel Barbara Johnson says that cease-and-desist letters alone halt sales of unauthorized products nearly all the time. Past parodies have included the sale of a T-shirt proclaiming, "D.A.R.E. to keep cops off doughnuts." Says Johnson, we take the program quite seriously and don't feel it should be made an object of ridicule for someone else's profit."
Hornaday says no one is going to confuse his T-shirt with a real D.A.R.E. product, particularly if it's for sale in a store that specializes in products made from hemp.
Not so, says Dennis B. Smith, a police officer in Claremont, a sleepy college town due east of Los Angeles. Smith, like hundreds of police officers nationwide, received training from D.A.R.E and spends much of his time teaching local 10-year-olds about the evils of drug use and gangs. He says at least six students have seen the store or the shirt and asked questions like: Is D.A.R.E. for marijuana? Does D.A.R.E. want you to turn in your parents? "He wants to have marijuana legalized," notes Officer Smit. "There were petitions in the store. There are children going in there and seeing this, which is counterproductive to the D.A.R.E. program."
Hornaday, a onetime anthropology student who says he has completed most of his degree work at nearby Pomona College, opened his tiny Foothill Boulevard store in February, next to Barbara's Answering Service and across from the local Methodist church. In March, Smith and a D.A.R.E. representative confronted Hornaday at his store. An intimidated Hornaday turned over two shirts, which he acquired from a distributor, and agreed not to sell any more. After thinking it over, he changed his mind: "Most people who've heard about this T-shirt find it very funny, and they know it's a parody."
This summer, Smith and three other officers arrived at the Hemp Shak with a search warrent and two D.A.R.E. representatives. An hour's search yielded a handful of T-shirts, which led to the filing of charges in July. The authentic T-shirts, which say "D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs." are the biggest-selling item for D.A.R.E. America, a California nonprofit that raises funds to support its anti-drug, anti-gang education programs.
Ever practical, Hornaday hopes to turn the whole morass into a research paper so he can earn that long-delayed anthropology degree. And he says potential customers, while awaiting the court's decision, may wish to consider other products -- like an anti-drug-testing T-shirt that fairly sums up Hornaday's situation. It reads, "Urine Trouble Now."