CHICAGO – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois struck down an Illinois law that banned licensed marijuana businesses from making contributions to candidates, PACs and other political committees. Judge John Z. Lee ruled that the ban violated businesses’ First Amendment rights.
The case argued that Illinois’ ban was unconstitutional because the state provided no justification for banning contributions from the cannabis industry while not banning contributions from any other regulated industry.
“Today's opinion is a victory securing our American commitment to open and robust discussions of controversial and innovative ideas. It is never appropriate for the government to cut one side out of the debate due to misguided fear and speculation,” said Benjamin Barr, president of the Pillar of Law Institute. “No one knows whether medical marijuana will be a success in Illinois, but we do know that talking about the issue is a healthy function of a free society."
“The First Amendment prohibits the government from using campaign finance rules to give some groups a political advantage over others,” said Jacob Huebert, senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center. “Today’s decision rightly applied that rule to strike down Illinois’ unfair, unconstitutional discrimination against certain legal businesses and the candidates they support.”
Speaking recently about legalized marijuana, Gov. Rauner told WGN-AM 720 Roe Conn Show: "I'm not a believer that legalizing more drugs will help our society so I’m not philosophically enthusiastic about it, but I’m also open to what actually works to make life better to people. ...“I’m hearing some pretty bad stories. Now, I haven’t studied it. I think we should do a thoughtful analysis of what’s happening in these other states. I’m hearing a lot of trouble. ...My friends in Colorado have told me some pretty terrible things about addiction problems and behavior problems, etc. over there in Denver.”
The opinion can be viewed here: https://illin.is/ballvmadigan
BACKGROUND: In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly enacted a statute banning medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries from making campaign contributions to any political committee established to promote a candidate for public office.
The Liberty Justice Center and the Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois on behalf of the plaintiffs in 2015.
Illinois election law already limits contributions by individuals to approximately $5,000 and contributions by corporations to approximately $10,000, with adjustments for inflation.