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Ball v. Madigan

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 24, 2017

CLAIRE BALL and SCOTT SCHLUTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
LISA M. MADIGAN, Attorney General of Illinois, CHARLES W. SCHOLZ, Chairman, Illinois Board of Elections, ERNEST L. GOWEN, Vice Chairman, Illinois Board of Elections, and BETTY J. COFFRIN, CASANDRA B. WATSON, WILLIAM J. CADIGAN, ANDREW K. CARRUTHERS, WILLIAM M. McGUFFAGE, and JOHN R. KEITH, members of the Illinois Board of Elections, in their official capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge.

         In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly enacted a statute banning medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries from making campaign contributions to any political committee established to promote a candidate for public office. The statute likewise bans candidates and political committees from receiving such contributions. 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/9-45 (hereinafter, “§ 9-45”).

         Plaintiffs are Libertarian Party candidates who ran for political office in Illinois's 2016 election cycle and plan to run in future elections. They challenge the contribution ban in § 9-45 as an unconstitutional restriction of First Amendment rights. For the reasons provided below, the Court finds that § 9-45 is invalid under the First Amendment and grants summary judgment in Plaintiffs' favor.

         Background

         The legalization of medical cannabis is a controversial subject. While the use of cannabis remains illegal under federal law, see 21 U.S.C. § 812, many states have recently approved legislation removing state-level criminal penalties for the use, cultivation, and dispensation of cannabis for medical purposes. See 410 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/5(e) (listing states).[1] On August 1, 2013, Illinois became the nineteenth state to enact such legislation. That day, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, 410 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/1 et seq. (hereinafter, “Medical Cannabis Act” or “Act”). The Act took effect on January 1, 2014. Its purpose is “to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture if the patients engage in the medical use of cannabis.” Id. § 5(g). Although the Act was originally scheduled for repeal on January 1, 2018, recent legislation extended its sunset date to July 1, 2020.

         In addition to setting forth eligibility requirements for patients' use of medical cannabis, the Act regulates the operation of medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries. Cultivation centers and dispensaries must be respectively registered with Illinois's Department of Agriculture and Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Id. § 10(f), (o). These agencies may approve registration permits for a maximum of twenty-two cultivation centers and sixty dispensaries. Id. §§ 85, 115. To qualify for a registration permit, a cultivation center or dispensary must obtain agency approval under a points-based evaluation system that accounts for numerous selection criteria. 8 Ill. Admin. Code 1000.110 (criteria for cultivation centers); 68 Ill. Admin. Code 1290.70 (criteria for dispensaries). Registration permits expire annually, and once a permit expires, a registrant must apply for renewal of its permit in order to continue operations. 410 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/85(b), -/125.

         On the same day that it enacted the Medical Cannabis Act, the Illinois General Assembly amended the Illinois Election Code, 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/9-1 et seq., by inserting § 9-45, a new statutory provision that governs political campaign contributions from medical cannabis organizations. Under § 9-45, “[i]t is unlawful for any medical cannabis cultivation center or medical cannabis dispensary organization or any political action committee created by any medical cannabis cultivation center or dispensary organization to make a campaign contribution to any political committee established to promote the candidacy of a candidate or public official.” Id. § 9-45. It is also “unlawful for any candidate, political committee, or other person to knowingly accept or receive any contribution” made by a medical cannabis cultivation center or dispensary organization. Id. A person or entity who violates § 9-45 may be fined up to $10, 000. Id. § 9-23. Like the Medical Cannabis Act, § 9-45 took effect on January 1, 2014. Unlike the Medical Cannabis Act, § 9-45 is not scheduled for repeal.

         Plaintiffs Claire Ball and Scott Schluter are Illinois residents and members of the Libertarian Party. In the 2016 election cycle, Ball ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for Illinois Comptroller, and Schluter ran as a Libertarian Party candidate for Illinois State Representative for the 117th District. Ball and Schluter have attested that they are active in Illinois politics and plan to run for office again in the future. They support the expanded legalization of cannabis, and they wish to legally solicit and accept campaign contributions from medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries.

         In November 2015, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the Illinois Attorney General and members of the Illinois Board of Elections. Plaintiffs contend that § 9-45 is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied, on the ground that it violates their and others' rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association protected under the First Amendment. They seek declaratory and injunctive relief. Now before the Court are Plaintiffs' and Defendants' cross-motions for summary judgment.

         Analysis

         The Court must grant a motion for summary judgment when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows there are no material disputes of fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Shell v. Smith, 789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). In marshalling evidence at the summary judgment stage, parties generally may not rely upon their pleadings. Jones v. City of Elkhart, 737 F.3d 1107, 1112 (7th Cir. 2013). But where, as here, the plaintiffs have filed a verified complaint, the complaint “is the equivalent of an affidavit for summary judgment purposes.” Devbrow v. Gallegos, 735 F.3d 584, 587 (7th Cir. 2013).

         I. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         Plaintiffs have challenged Illinois's ban on campaign contributions from medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. As a threshold matter, the Court observes that Plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring this pre-enforcement First Amendment challenge.[2]Plaintiffs have suffered an injury because, while they wish to freely associate with medical cannabis organizations by soliciting and accepting contributions from them, they have refrained from doing so to avoid violating § 9-45. They have further suffered an injury to the extent that such organizations wish to contribute to their campaigns but, likewise wary of § 9-45, have not done so. These injuries-which are fairly traceable to § 9-45 and redressable by a ruling of this Court-suffice to confer standing. See Wis. Right to Life State Political Action Comm. v. Barland, 664 F.3d 139, 146-48 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In addition, Plaintiffs have jus tertii standing to vindicate the political-speech rights of their contributors and supporters. Id. at 148 (political committee had standing to vindicate First Amendment rights of potential contributors); Majors v. Abell, 317 F.3d 719, 722 (7th Cir. 2003) (candidate for public office had standing to vindicate First Amendment rights of his supporters); see also Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 194-96 (1976). The Court also notes that this case presents a live controversy, because Plaintiffs wish to solicit and accept contributions “on a continuing basis in future elections.” Wis. Right to Life, 664 F.3d at 149. Having considered these threshold matters, the Court finds that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate this controversy and turns to the merits of Plaintiffs' First Amendment claim.

         II. Constitutionality of Illinois's Contribution Ban

         “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” McCutcheon v. F.E.C., 134 S.Ct. 1434, 1440-41 (2014) (Roberts, C.J.) (plurality opinion). The First Amendment safeguards this right by “afford[ing] the broadest protection” to political expression and association. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 14 (1976). And the Supreme Court has made clear that “[s]pending for political ends and contributing to political candidates both fall within the First Amendment's protection of speech and political ...


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