The Very Model of a State Attorney General, cont’d

Following a letter from 22 state attorneys general, Urban Outfitters has agreed to stop selling a humorous mug with a “Prescription: Coffee” design. The AGs argued that prescription drug abuse is a very serious matter and not something to be joked about. [via Eugene Volokh]

The humor-impaired AGs participating (is yours on this list?) included those from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as Guam. According to Maggie Thurber at Ohio Watchdog, “the Partnership at went further and categorized [the mugs and related coasters and other trinkets] as ‘prescription drug paraphernalia products.'”

Aside from a few core functions such as defending their states in litigation and issuing legal opinions to guide state agencies, state attorneys general have far too much discretionary authority to butt into whatever controversial areas may suit their taste for popularity and political advancement, even when, as here, there is no evident basis to think that Urban Outfitters had violated any actual law. It seems highly unlikely that the novelty mugs send any particular message that undermines public respect for prescription drug laws, but if for some reason they did, they would be entitled to more protection against AG bullying, not less, since expressive objects that send a symbolic message of disrespect for government policy will often qualify for First Amendment protection.

Congratulations to the 28 AGs who resisted the temptation to join in this busybody intimidation. (cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)


  • Proof that AG’s have no class,brains,common sense,morals. In more words ,if this is what you have time for AG’s then you need a serious budget cut. And thanks Urban outfitters for having so much courage; NOT. You should have taken out full page ads with this letter as the copy. You would have sold millions of cups. I would have bought one today and extras as gifts. Instead you won’t be getting any of my money for anything in your crappy stores.

  • Now that Urban Outfitters is not in the “Prescription: Coffee” mug business anymore, I see a void in a what should be a profitable enterprise. Somehow I don’t think the presence or lack of “prescription: coffee” mugs will have an effect on the junkies that wash down 4 Oxycontin pills with 6 shots of tequila.

  • Next they’ll ban “No Trans-Fats Coffee” mugs.

  • Surprise!

    I just downloaded the picture. After about 5 minutes of photo shop to flatten it out, I’m going to print it and put it on a mug that I will carry all over (and I don’t even like coffee).

    Just in case you are wondering, silicon sealer makes an excellent glue for .attaching the paper AND if you are careful to rub a THIN coat over the front and cover the edges, it is reasonable water proof.

    How to get it off? Brute power. So don’t use your mother’s heirloom DAR mug.


    I just googled “prescription coffee” images.


    Several design variations on exactly the same mug are being sold by at least 80 companies right now on the web.

  • As of 11:30 pm 8/5/2013 this item is available for purchase on Urban Outfitter website. $14 seems a tad expensive. You can get the same item on Amazon for $12.95 with free shipping. Personally I like the Prescription Beer Koozie for only $8.87. Clearly having even a lick of sense is still not a requirement to be the AG in my beloved home state.

  • […] real joke the the Attorney Generals who acted like clowns. H/T to our friend Walter Olson over at Overlawyerd for the […]

  • Bumper, the state AG’s (not all the same ones now as then, but…) lost all sense when they signed on to the Tobacco litigation in he late 1990’s…

  • Melvin: At least the AGs in the Tobacco lit were motivated by greed. This lit is motivated by posturing.

  • The capacity of government officials for inconsistency, irrationality, megalomania and craven, herd behavior never ceases to out do its immediate past performance. It’s as if these political potentates actually endeavor to look more stupid and childish than their predecessors.

    On entering office does each one take an oath to simply ignore the Bill of Rights? Do the rights of individuals even get onto the officials’ radar screen in their decision-making regarding what and what not to prosecute, oppose or support?

  • Or these AGs are motivated by personal fears; something of a personal nature they do not wish to be reminded, or desire to conceal, if only from themselves.

    There is the condition of lawful drug dependency under a supervising physician where mood altering or psychotropic prescription drugs are lawfully prescribed as medication to treat a mental instability, malignant disposition, paranoia or clinical personality disorder.

    Perhaps some of these AGs fear ‘coffee/table awareness’ in the commons that there are professionals in the law under the influence of such “medication.”

    That such a clever coffee cup parody would cause these AGs to behave in such a manner begs the question of what’s hiding in their medicine cabinet.

    Who and what were they really trying to protect? You? Me? Our enumerated rights under the Constitution? Sure doesn’t look like it.

    It looks like a leap from a state of paranoia to a state of idealizing narcissism. What mental condition spawns a vanity that so infantilizes the viewing of coffee mugs in the public commons that it must be banned?

    Perhaps they fear the institutionalized malice and childishly simplistic indifference to human suffering that animates the professional practice of drug enforcement will be turned upon them.

    Perhaps it’s merely a matter of protecting the dormancy of their personal conscience should they personally have a prescribed prescription drug dependency.

    What else would they be afraid of?

    Anyone else reminded of the adage, “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”