Pro-marijuana group draws ire for name, POW logo use
By Rick Maze, Military Times
A website advocating on behalf of legalized marijuana has offended some veterans by using the acronym for the nation’s largest group of combat veterans and by modifying a famous logo showing a soldier being held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as smoking a joint.
A representative of Veterans for Weed, a Milwaukee-based organization with a website and Facebook page, said they have no plans to stop using the altered logo created for the National League of POW/MIA Families that shows a silhouette of a soldier and a prison tower. The altered logo, which the group is selling on hats, T-shirts and other items, shows the soldier smoking a joint.
The image is not copyrighted, so there is no legal reason why the organization has to stop using the altered image, a Veterans for Weed representative said in an e-mail.
“It was not our intention to offend anyone. We apologize to those we did offend,” said the spokesman, who identified himself as Hemp Solo, and said he was a Marine veteran.
Both the website and Facebook page for the marijuana group have received many complaints asking them to stop using the POW/MIA logo and VFW name.
A message posted on the website says: “We did not alter the POW flag lightly, or because we were high. We take it very seriously.”
Solo, who did not provide his real name, did not address the issue of using VFW, an acronym that is copyrighted, according to a statement provided by Randi K. Law of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Law said the legal counsel of the Veterans of Foreign Wars “immediately mailed a cease and desist letter to the group. In an effort to avoid further legal action by VFW, Veterans for Weed must immediately cease using VFW on any communication, products, and etcetera.”
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars is not affiliated with, nor does it support Veterans for Weed or its initiatives,” Law said.
Use of the altered POW/MIA logo and use on the website of terms such as “stoner soldier” and “semper high” are also offensive, according to Law’s statement.
However, the statement agrees that the POW/MIA logo was never copyrighted and is in the public domain.
Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairman of the National League of POW/MIA Families, said in a statement that offenders usually stop using an altered logo when asked.
“In most instances, intervention by veterans and family members have succeeded in halting further use,” she said. “That is all we can legally do, calling upon them to do what is right and responsible.”
Solo said Veterans For Weed concentrates on trying to change laws that put marijuana users in jail. Use of the VFW name and the altered POW/MIA logo are a way of getting attention, he said.
“It was meant to get vets and non-vets to recognize the issue (of) vets jailed and lives ruined because of a little pot,” Solo’s statement said. “Some have even killed themselves cause of the persecution.”
Acknowledging there may been complaints from veterans on the group’s website and Facebook page, Solo said there also have been many positive comments.
“We get positive feedback from around the world. We will not remove it. It is stirring up conversation. When you are in prison because you smoked, or possessed some pot, then you are a POW, prisoner of weed,” Solo said.