Adam Eidinger of the DC Cannabis Campaign arranges posters in Washington on Oct. 9, 2014. A federal judge has ruled that cannabis businesses are allowed to make campaign contributions in Illinois. (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press file)

Federal judge: Illinois cannabis biz can make campaign contributions

"They have every right to speak out about politics and participate in it and try to influence the laws just like the rest of us do," says Jacob Huebert, a senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center

CHICAGO — Illinois’ medical marijuana companies, operating in an industry abounding with rules, now have one less regulation they have to follow.

The Chicago Tribune reports that a federal judge ruled last week that a provision preventing cannabis companies from making campaign contributions in Illinois wasn’t constitutional. The ruling was in response to a 2015 lawsuit filed by two Libertarian Party candidates who sought contributions from the medical marijuana industry.

However, cannabis companies are used to operating in a highly regulated industry and aren’t rushing to make campaign donations. Cresco Labs CEO and co-founder Charlie Bachtell said the provision preventing campaign contributions was just another regulation to follow.

“We had a road map of certain things we had to do, certain things we need to comply with, a couple things we were prevented from doing, and this was one of those,” Bachtell said.

Illinois lawmakers approved the state’s pilot medical cannabis program in 2013, and dispensaries began opening two years later. The provision preventing political contributions was part of the law that created the program.

Bachtell said the company, which operates three cultivation facilities in the state, hasn’t decided whether it will start contributing to candidates, but that it’s nice to have the same channels as businesses in other industries.

Jacob Huebert, a senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center, the Chicago-based nonprofit litigation center representing the plaintiffs in the case, said that even playing field is exactly what the lawsuit was fighting for.

“They have every right to speak out about politics and participate in it and try to influence the laws just like the rest of us do,” he said.

Information from: Chicago Tribune