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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pols Seek End to Pot Dispensary Donation Ban

CHICAGO (CN) - Two Libertarian candidates claim Illinois' ban prohibiting medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries from making campaign contributions violates their First Amendment rights.

Claire Ball and Scott Schluter sued Attorney General Lisa Madigan and eight members of the Illinois Board of Elections in federal court.

Illinois enacted the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in 2014, legalizing medical marijuana.

Last week, the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries opened, marking the beginning of legal sales in the state. No dispensaries are yet opened in Chicago due to additional administrative red tape.

While many states have enacted similar laws, Illinois is the only state that simultaneously forbade medical cannabis cultivators or dispensaries from making campaign contributions.

Plaintiffs Ball and Schluter are members of the Libertarian Party running for comptroller and state representative, respectively, who support the repeal of the laws criminalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.

They claim the law violates their First Amendment rights by prohibiting them from soliciting campaign donations from people and businesses who would support their proposed policies.

"Under the current law, plaintiffs are prohibited from accepting campaign contributions from medical cannabis cultivators, dispensaries, or their related PACs [political action committees]. In this way, the State of Illinois has forbidden candidates for public office from associating with one class of individuals - medical cannabis cultivators, dispensaries, and their related PACs. This constitutes a prior restraint against plaintiffs' First Amendment rights of free speech and association that cannot be sustained by any imaginable government interest," the complaint states.

The fine for accepting a campaign contribution from medical cannabis cultivators is between $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the office, which has deterred plaintiffs from accepting such donations.

However, "Were they free to do so, plaintiffs would start soliciting and accepting campaign contributions now and in any future elections from medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries."

Plaintiffs seek an injunction against the enforcement of the campaign contribution ban.

They are represented by Jacob Huebert with Liberty Justice Center, and Benjamin Barr with the Pillar of Law Institute.

Lisa Madigan's office did not immediately respond to a voicemail request for comment made Friday afternoon.

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