Campaign Finance Spotlight: Pillar of Law Institute Wins Cannabis Contribution Case

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The Pillar of Law Institute won summary judgment recently in the case Ball v. Madigan, striking down an Illinois state law that prohibits medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries from making campaign contributions. Judge John Z. Lee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that the law violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

“No state enjoys the power to simply prohibit certain people or groups from participating in politics,” said Benjamin Barr, President of Pillar and lead counsel in the case. “While Illinois allowed other industries—including alcohol, pharmaceuticals and gambling—to contribute up to $10,800 to candidates, it arbitrarily prohibited the nascent medical cannabis industry from contributing a penny.”

The case was brought on behalf of Claire Ball, a Libertarian candidate who ran for the office of comptroller in the 2016 election and Scott Schluter, a Libertarian candidate ran for state representative. Both were prohibited under the law from accepting contributions from medical marijuana organizations.

“Our clients were new to politics and the law cut off an important source of funding to run for office, crippling their ability to share their message with the public,” said Barr. “Today’s opinion ensures that everyone–including third-party candidates–have a chance to compete.”

Illinois began its medical marijuana pilot program in 2014, and it is currently effective until 2020.

“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,” said Barr. “It is never appropriate for the government to cut one side out of the debate due to misguided fear and speculation.”

Click here to download the ruling.

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