It has been legal to run a medical marijuana business in Illinois since the start of 2014. But it has also been illegal for businesses in the industry to donate to a political campaign in the state, or for candidates to accept such a donation, either directly or via a Political Action Committee.
Two Libertarian Party politicians, Claire Ball and Scott Schluter, are now suing to challenge this law. As of press time they were waiting for a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to decide on their motion for summary judgment.
In that motion, they point out that the law bans "one class of political speakers…from engaging in the same sort of political association that is typically recognized and free from abridgement." This is supposed to combat corruption, but Ball and Schluter argue that it instead "silences emerging voices and hinders competitive campaigns by unorthodox candidates. Under the First Amendment, this cannot stand."
Individuals involved in such businesses can still donate under the Illinois law, but the plaintiffs argue that per the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a corporation or business "enjoys its own ability to engage in political free speech."
Democratic State Rep. Lou Lang, a lead sponsor of the bill, admitted to WSIU-FM last year that "conservative" and "hesitant" colleagues were supposed to be appeased into supporting medical pot by this First Amendment–violating rule.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "No Pot Campaigning".