Friday, November 27, 2015

Illinois Libertarians challenge ban on donations from medical marijuana companies

Illinois Libertarians Sue Over Medical Marijuana Campaign Finance Ban | WUIS 91.9 - Brian Mackey:

November 25, 2015 - "A federal lawsuit is seeking to overturn Illinois’ ban on campaign contributions from medical marijuana companies.

"The case was brought last week by two Libertarian Party political candidates: Claire Ball of Addison, who says she's running for comptroller, and Scott Schluter of Marion, who says he's running for state representative. They say they favor legalization of drugs, and that companies that agree with them should be able to support their campaigns.

"When Illinois legislators approved the medical marijuana pilot program in 2013, they boasted of passing the strictest medical marijuana law in the country. Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat from Skokie, was a lead sponsor of the bill. He says the contribution ban, which applies to cannabis growers and dispensaries, was among a number of provisions meant to appease 'conservative' and 'hesitant' colleagues....

"'I would prefer this not be in the bill,' Lang said in a telephone interview. 'Not because I’m looking for campaign donations from people in the marijuana industry, but because I’m not sure that it’s great public policy to pick out one particular industry or two particular industries, and single them out for a clouding of their free speech rights, and not do it to all (industries)'....

"The specificity of the Illinois law piqued the interest of Benjamin Barr, a lawyer with the Pillar of Law Institute in Washington, D.C. He’s one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ball and Schluter.

"'It’s strikingly bizarre to me for the state of Illinois to take this blatant and open of a position,' Barr said in a telephone interview. 'Usually, campaign finance (prohibition), when it has problems, applies heavy-handedly to one group. But they’re not named out in the law, because that’s just jumping up and down and signaling, "Look, we’re going after this particular organization or this set of speakers."'

"Barr says he’s not aware of a similar ban in any of the other roughly two-dozen states experimenting with medical marijuana....

"The U.S. Supreme Court in recent years has repeatedly ruled that spending on campaigns is essentially political speech, and thus protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

"Barr says it’s particularly important that his clients, who favor the legalization of drugs, be able to seek support from like-minded businesses: 'They're third parties. They have new ideas. They're disrupting the status quo. And what's most important to them right now? To be able to associate and to be able to get funding, so that they're able to speak to people in Illinois, and they're able to share their message.'"

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