- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - Two Libertarian political candidates have asked a federal court to declare unconstitutional an Illinois ban on political contributions from the state’s new medical marijuana industry.

The candidates - Claire Ball of Addison and Scott Schluter of Marion - filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago last week in which they say they support marijuana legalization and want to solicit campaign donations from marijuana businesses. Illinois law bars such contributions.

Ball is running for state comptroller. Schluter is running for state representative in southern Illinois’ 117th District. They argue that banning campaign donations from marijuana businesses infringes on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, citing among other cases the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the case known as Citizens United.

The lawsuit acknowledges that preventing corruption is a legitimate reason for governments to restrict campaign donations. However, it says “medical cannabis cultivators and producers are not singularly more corrupting than similarly situated individuals.”

The lawsuit names Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and members of the Illinois Board of Elections. The office has until Dec. 10 to respond to the lawsuit, Madigan spokeswoman Annie Thompson said Tuesday.

The ban on political contributions was among concessions sponsors made to pass the bill in 2013, said the former coordinator of the Illinois program.

“In hindsight, several aspects of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act went too far and included unnecessary restrictions on the industry - such as requiring patient fingerprinting, severely limiting the qualifying medical conditions, and prohibiting political participation,” said Morgan, an attorney at Much Shelist in Chicago. “This new lawsuit will clarify whether the prohibition was ever constitutional in the first place.”

Ball and Schluter are represented by attorneys with the Liberty Justice Center in Chicago and the Pillar of Law Institute in Washington.

Illinois now has 15 medical marijuana cultivation centers authorized to grow the plant for legal sales. Nearly a dozen marijuana dispensaries have active licenses and 3,300 patients have been approved for the program.

The Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, an industry group, hasn’t had a chance to consider the lawsuit, said spokeswoman Kim Morreale McAuliffe.


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