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Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council 425 U.S. 748(1976)Facts of the Case: Acting on behalf of prescription drug consumers, the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council challenged a Virginia statute that declared it unprofessional conduct for licensed pharmacists to advertise their prescription drug prices. On appeal from an adverse rulingby a three-judge District Court panel, the Supreme Court granted the Virginia State Board of Pharmacy review.Question: Is a statutory ban on advertising prescription drug prices by licensed pharmacists a violation of "commercial speech" under the First Amendment?Conclusion: Yes. In a 7-to-1 opinion, the Court held that the First Amendment protects willing speakers and willing listeners equally. The Court noted that in cases of commercial speech, such as price advertising, freedom of speech protections apply just as they would to noncommercial speech. Even speech that is sold for profit, or involves financial solicitations, is protected. The
77Chapter 1: Equal ProtectionCourt concluded that although the Virginia State Board of Pharmacy has a legitimate interest in preserving professionalism among its members, it may not do so at the expense of public knowledge about lawful competitive pricing terms.Of course, commercial speech may be regulated via time, manner, place restriction. [A] Truthful, Non-deceptive Commercial Advertising After Virginia PharmacyCentral Hudson Gas v. Public Service Commission of New York, 447 U.S. 557 (1980)Facts: The Public Service Commission of New York (PSC), in the interest of conserving energy, enacted a regulation that prohibited electric utilities from promoting electricity use. The PSC's regulation distinguished promotional advertising from informational advertising, which was permitted. Central Hudson Gas and Electric challenged the regulation in a New York State Supreme Court, which upheld the regulation. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court affirmed the decision, as did the New York Court of Appeals.Question: Did the PSC's ban on advertising violate the freedom of speech protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?Conclusion: Yes. In an 8-1 opinion, the Court overruled the Court of Appeals of New York and held that the New York's ban violated the right to commercial speech. Writing for the majority, Justice Lewis F. Powell cited the protections for "commercial speech from unwarranted governmental regulation" set forth in Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council. The Court recognized New York's interest in promoting energy conservation and accepted that the PSC's regulation would directly further that interest. However, since the regulation restricted all promotional advertising regardless of its effect on electricity use, it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment under First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti.