CHICAGO, IL – The Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois arguing that Illinois law censors speech. The law, enacted as part of the state’s medical marijuana pilot program in 2014, prohibits cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries from making political contributions to candidates for state office. The suit is brought on behalf of Claire Ball, a Libertarian candidate who is running for the office of comptroller in the 2016 election and is prohibited under the law from accepting contributions from medical marijuana organizations. Scott Schluter, a Libertarian candidate who is running for state representative, joins her in this suit.
“As Libertarians, Ball and Schluter are staunch supporters of medical marijuana and further reforms to our nation’s drug laws,” said Benjamin Barr, lead counsel for Pillar. “But the law prohibits them from accepting any financial support for their candidacy from the cannabis industry. It’s unfair, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.”
Illinois law allows other corporations and labor organizations to contribute up to $10,800 to a candidate in each election. Medical marijuana companies and candidates who violate the contribution ban can be penalized with a fine of up to 150% of the value of an illegal contribution along with other penalties that can amount to thousands of dollars.
“A liquor company can donate up to $10,800 to a candidate, and so could a tobacco company. Only marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers are censored,” said Barr. “Whatever your position is on medical marijuana, the industry enjoys the same right to participate in politics as any other. The First Amendment never permits government to hobble certain speakers it disfavors.”
The first medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries under the pilot program opened earlier this month. On August 14, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have extended the sunset date of the program, which remains January 1, 2018.
“Campaign contributions are important ways that candidates and likeminded citizens associate and mobilize around issues they care about,” said Barr. “Given the continuing debate regarding medical marijuana and decriminalization, those who are part of the industry should be able to support candidates who represent their position, and candidates should be free to accept their contributions.”